After a couple of pan-flat stage in the last two days of 2018 Tour de France, the racing really gets interesting on stage nine between Arras Citadelle and Roubaix that includes 15 cobble sectors.
With a largely flat race profile, the interesting parts of the stage are the small grey setions on the race map that denote each of the 15 cobble sectors on the route that start after just 47.5km.
Although the route doesn’t take on the fiercest of the cobbles from Paris-Roubaix in the Trouée d’Arenberg, it does tackle the five-star sector of Mons-en-Pévèle and the four-star sectors of Sars-et-Rosières, Bersée, and Camphin-en-Pévèle.
The last time the Tour de France tackled the cobbles in 2015 the stage was won by Tony Martin, three seconds ahead of a large group of riders. However there were much bigger splits on the cobbled stage in 2014, where Lars Boom won in wet and cold conditions, while Vincenzo Nibali finished third to gain more than two minutes on his GC rivals.
Many teams will have to balance different ambitions, with a particular balance having to be found by BMC Racing who will be working to protect the lead of Greg Van Avermaet who may also want to win the stage, while also keeping men around GC hopeful Richie Porte.
Perhaps the stage win could go to a team without GC ambitions, with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) going into the race as the defending Paris-Roubaix champion, while Quick-Step Floors have their usual wide choice of riders capable of winning the stage.
Catch-up with the best bits of the stage or read up on everything that happened on the final day of the first week of racing in our stage nine report.
The 2018 Tour de France started in Noirmoitier en l’Île on Saturday July 7 and finishes three weeks later in Paris on Sunday, July 29.