Tom Pidcock and his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Laurens De Plus have wasted no time in testing out the ninth gravel stage of next year’s Tour de France before the end of the year.
Stage nine of the 2024 edition of the race is a 199 kilometre stage around the city of Troyes in the north east of the country. It features 14 sectors of unpaved, gravel road with an additional 2,000 metres of elevation gain, a test which Pidcock - as reigning Strade Bianche champion - will no doubt relish.
De Plus shared a post on Strava - titled “TDF recon stage 9” - which included an image of the Belgian and Pidcock standing on one of the sectors with Pidcock’s coach, Kurt Bogaerts, in the background along with Ineos sports director Steve Cummings.
The Strava file shows that the duo completed 156.7 kilometres of the stage and 1,720 metres of elevation gain.
Pidcock will likely be one of several cards that Ineos could play on the ninth stage.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly, Cummings said that the nature of the course should make for an exciting finale to the stage.
"Generally the sectors towards the end of the stage are more challenging," he said. "I suspect in July it will be dry and dusty, I'm not sure how that will effect how riders perceive the gravel.
"Generally a lot of changes of direction," he added. "For sure it will be an epic stage and we are looking forward to it."
Prior to returning the Tour for a third straight year, Bogaerts recently told Cycling Weekly that the 24-year-old will more than likely look to defend his Strade title in March.
“He would like to target it [Strade Bianche] again,” Bogaerts said. “It's a race in general that he really loves and with the team we are putting a puzzle together where it's highly likely it will fit in.”
“Strade is definitely a race that I see Tom returning to several times,” he added. “Obviously it's not a Monument, but it's probably the one that comes closest to a Monument.
"It's quite iconic and is the closest you can come to like the old fashioned style of racing on dirt roads.
“The finish is quite nice [in the square], the environment is nice, that part of Italy is a really great place. I know that doing well in that race is something he would like to do several times.
"There's other races he would like to win once, but I think he wouldn't say no to a second win there. It means a lot to him, this race, and I see him going back there regularly.”
Meanwhile the inclusion of a gravel stage in next year’s Tour drew scepticism from many after the recent route announcement in Paris.
“Gravel is, for me, not necessary. I would not put it in a race such as this. The luck factor is getting too big,” said Jumbo-Visma boss, Richard Plugge.
“The old legends of cycling would be happy that we can finally race on asphalt, and now we go back to how it was 30 or 40 years ago. For me that’s not necessary.
“On the other hand, it’s part of it, and we have to deal with that. The rest of the parcours is brilliant.”
"Separate events and championships for gravel are already being organised," Evenepoel said. "Should gravel sections like that absolutely still be included in a Grand Tour or in other, normal, races? I don't really think it's necessary.”
😮💨😮💨 pic.twitter.com/iBQg86WiE6November 23, 2023
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