After completing their respective early-April racing appointments at the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Klasika Primavera in Amorebieta, Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde joined some of their Movistar team-mates on a recon of stage nine of the 2018 Tour de France, from Arras to Roubaix, just under three months before the start of the ‘Grande Boucle’.
Together with three riders from the Movistar Team’s Paris-Roubaix roster – Imanol Erviti, Marc Soler and Jasha Sütterlin –, as well as sports directors José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta, the Spanish squad’s leaders covered the fifteen cobbled sections of this feared stage.
At the end of the recon, Arrieta said the following: “What we wanted here was to get a real feeling about the terrain: how you enter and tackle every sector, which ones of them could be key – it’s obvious that it will all be a different story when you’re racing and into a furious peloton, but I’m sure this recon will really help us a lot. We were also lucky, since we had two days of dry weather, which allowed us covering the entire group of sectors with no setbacks.
“Taking advantage of all materials we already had here in northern France for Roubaix, we also tested different wheelsets, tyre pressures – it’s also about having everyone going into this stage, come July, with absolute confidence about what’s best for them. All three leaders had already ridden on cobblestones this spring, and even if we know that the hardness of those sections is nowhere near the Roubaix pavé, it’s significant for us to have them feeling what it’s like to go on a cobbled race.”
Arrieta considers this stage could become decisive: “As we always saw, you can lose the Tour de France at every stage, and days like these are even more dangerous. You’ll need to be in perfect form, know what you’re facing, and also some extra bit of luck, because a puncture, a mechanical, can all cost you lots of time. It’s pretty likely that one of the race contenders will leave this stage with his chances ruined.”