The cobbles proved controversial, especially with Frank Schleck going out of the race. But for me at least, their inclusion in the race is fine.
It’s all about the quantity of pavé. Past visits have included a lot of more stretches of cobbles, for me under 14km is fine, especially since some of the sections were decent, only a couple of the sections were real boneshakers. Real Paris Roubaix means a 255km race with 55km of pavé, that’s brutal. 14km is more measured.
Several riders were complaining yesterday and I feel for them. When you race, safety is the foremost thing and an organiser should not be sacrificing this for the sake of entertainment. Yet at the same time the Tour’s history includes plenty of hard moments, think of a mountain descent in the rain. This makes the race so dramatic.
Reductio ad absurdum
To reduce the argument to the absurd, if the riders were to sit in a spinning class for a month and the result determined by their wattages, don’t be surprised if few watched. Whilst riders might complain, their wages are dependent on TV ratings and fans. If every Tour and Giro were more like the Vuelta, I’d spend my spare time watching paint dry.
But whilst the race gave plenty of drama, let’s hope a balance is struck. I don’t want to see Tour organiser Prudhomme bidding with Giro d’Italia boss Zomegnan in an auction to up their offerings to TV viewers. Riders already face tough conditions and if they are paid to join the history of a sport made notable by epic rides, people have a duty to practice their career in relative safety.