Stage 9 of the Tour De France is the stage none of the main contenders for the yellow jersey will have been relishing – the cobbles have arrived.
Over 21km of terrible uneven and sometimes jagged cobbles is one of the longest intermittent exposures to this dangerous surface in recent Tour history.
The surface is half the problem, the narrow laneways demand a fight for prominent position at every entry point, and crashes are frequent, with mechanical issues often taking a long time to resolve with team cars stuck in traffic.
The Classic one-day Paris-Roubaix is the clearly blueprint for this stage. Some of the great Roubaix riders though will be pressed into protecting team leaders in this multi-stage event and suppressed from showing their best. This may even include the yellow jersey of Greg Van Avermaet who may need to protect Richie Porte’s General Classification hopes.
This should therefore go to a cobbles specialist not attached to a bigger prize. Peter Sagan won in Roubaix this year and is the obvious short priced favourite – but even he has a bigger prize in the Green jersey to protect.
The team to focus on is Quickstep. In Bob Jungels they have an outside chance of long term Yellow, but they have been strong so far mostly in the services of sprinter Gaviria and puncheur Alaphilippe. However this is the day for their cobbles specialists and they have three big guns in Phillips Gilbert, Yves Lampaert and and Niki Terpstra.
Team tactics will probably be employed to soften up the opposition, and whilst Gilbert in particular has looked strong, Terpstra is the man with the stunning Roubaix heritage and could be let off the leash on a day where we can expect one or two major contenders to hit serious trouble.
Recommendation: To win Stage 9 of the Tour De France: Niki Terpstra, 1pt win, 7/1 William Hill.
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