Tour riders braced for cobbles freak show

ROTTERDAM Thu Jul 1, 2010 8:42am EDT

Alexander Vinokourov (2nd R) from the Astana team and other cyclists ride during training on a cobblestone section in Haveluy, northern France June 30, 2010. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Alexander Vinokourov (2nd R) from the Astana team and other cyclists ride during training on a cobblestone section in Haveluy, northern France June 30, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

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ROTTERDAM (Reuters) - Several Tour de France riders fear the 213 kms third stage from Wanze to Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut on Tuesday featuring 13.15 kms of cobblestone sections could degenerate into a freak show.

"The Tour de France is already a spectacle, do we need to add this? It can be dangerous," German Jens Voigt, riding in his 13th Tour, told Reuters shortly after returning from a training ride around Rotterdam.

Other riders and directors on the three-week 3,642 kms race agreed the cobblestones could lead to chaos and prematurely end the hopes of at least one of the favorites.

"Someone will lose the race that day, I just don't know who it's going to be. It could be Lance (Armstrong), could be (Alberto) Contador, could be (Andy) Schleck," Garmin Transitions manager Jonathan Vaughters told reporters at his team's hotel on Friday.

Twice champion Contador, the overwhelming favorite, first rode on cobbles this season. "Going.To.Be.Carnage," seven-times champion Lance Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed.

"There are 10 or 12 genuine (overall) contenders," said Garmin Transitions sports director Matt White.

"I reckon on Tuesday you might be able to cut that list down to four guys, and I'm being optimistic.

"You're not racing against Contador that day. It's the cobbles, it will be a big free-for-all. There's 20 different scenarios that can happen that day and you've got to be able to react to them."

The last kilometers leading to the cobbled sections of the stage are likely to be ridden at full speed as riders will want to secure a place by the front of the peloton to avoid crashes.

"The approach to the first section of cobbles, it will be full speed, I imagine there will be a crash, there will be a bottleneck," said Vaughters.

"The key is positioning going into that first section. If you're positioned well and you've missed the massive pile-up."

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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