In recent years the Tour de France featured cobbled stages, too. In 2014 and 2015 the race included seven cobbled sectors, while it will be no less than fifteen in this edition. Obviously, this is good news for the likes of Terpstra, Sagan, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet.
The cobbled stage in the 2014 Tour turned out to be a war of attrition because of the rainy conditions. Lars Boom powered to victory on the bone-joltingly and slippery farm cobbles, while Vincenzo Nibali was by far the best GC-rider on the pavé. In 2015 it was and uneventful race. The roads were dry and Tony Martin – not exactly a cobbles specialist – launched a late attack to solo to the win. The main group, with all GC-contenders, crossed the line a few seconds after Der Panzerwagen.
So the weather will be crucial (today’s forecast: sunny and warm). Self-evidently, the sheer number of cobbled sectors will have its impact on how the race unfolds, too. The first one appears after almost 50 kilometres, but by far the most medieval rocks lay waiting in the second half of the route. The riders leave the last pavé behind them with 8 kilometres to go. So expect a cobbled roller coaster ride from hell in La Grande Boucle 2018.
Is Sep Vanmarcke allowed to ride for the win, or does he have to stick around to navigate his leader Uran over the pavé? Sagan and Terpstra seem to be the only major contenders for the stage win without any domestique duties.
Peter Sagan is Paris-Roubaix’ title holder. In recent years, Greg Van Avermaet (2016), Mathew Hayman (2015), John Degenkolb (2014) and Niki Terpstra (2013) won the Hell of the North.
Favourites 9th stage 2018 Tour de France
*** Niki Terpstra, Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke
** Jasper Stuyven, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Alexander Kristoff, John Degenkolb
* Oliver Naesen, Søren Kragh Andersen, Arnaud Démare, Michael Valgren
Tour de France 2018 stage 9: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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Profile 1st intermediate sprint
Details 1st intermediate sprint
Profile 2nd intermediate sprint
Details 2nd intermediate sprint