If the cobbles are in France why did Armstrong go to Belgium?

It’s probably not even worthy of footnote status in the story of the Tour de France 2010 but the question of cobbles has been bothering me through the last week or so.

Lance Armstrong made a big point of riding the Tour of Flanders and talking about how it was all part of the preparation for Le Tour.

“… he will use the race to prepare for the cobbles that he will face at the Tour de France in July.” – cyclingnews.com

Now on the official site you can see the following statement about the stage:

“There will be 7 cobbled sectors over a total of 13,2 kilometres, including the Haveluy sector, only ten kilometres from the stage finish. The finish line will be located at the entrance to the notorious Arenberg Trench, the legendary backdrop to Paris-Roubaix.”

Here’s their final few kms

Final kilometres, stage 3 Tour de France 2010

Now a quick tot up says that’s 10.1km of cobbles in the run in, none of which you’ll find in the Tour of Flanders route. In fact they all look suspiciously more like bits of Paris-Roubaix than Flanders.

If there’s one thing even my mum could tell you (NB invocation of maternal opinion is the last resort of a desperate hack), it’s that Flanders isn’t Roubaix. Anyone who watched the way Cancellara won both sure as heck will tell you the same.

Would Armstrong have been better off riding the first half of Paris-Roubaix and then covering his glass than draining it to finish in the chase bunch in Flanders?

I suspect that Roubaix would have been too much of an injury risk but that Flanders was cobbly enough to make the point about how serious his preparation is to his rivals. We know that the psychological war is waged long before they start assembling the Prologue ramp.

By showing that he could ride in the front of the field on the cobbles, Armstrong was flashing his credentials at Contador, the Schlecks and others.

I suspect that, come July, Team Boomshackalack, sorry Radioshack, and everyone else will be trying to line it out as they head towards Arenberg, desperate to protect their leaders while other teams vie for the stage.

On that basis my call is that you might as well bet on Cancellara to win at Arenberg while wearing yellow, having taken it in the prologue. It’s as likely as him doing the double was the Friday before Flanders.

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