Stage 3: Cambridge to London – 155km
If talk proves true about rain falling on stage five of the Tour de France, which includes a total of 15.4 kilometres of treacherous cobblestones, that leg could be as decisive as a day in the mountains.
The 155.5km stage from Ypres, in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut back in France on Wednesday has been spoken of in the peloton since the Tour route was unveiled in Paris late October last year.
But now the time has come when and talk must turn to action and we must deal with it, just as every other team must do.
There may have been relief when we flew out from London City Airport for France after stage three from Cambridge to London on Monday night after three days of racing in some of the biggest crowds the current peloton has experienced.
The Tour in England was a great advertisement for the growth of cycling in the country. Nevertheless, that stress continued right up until the the third stage in England when we rode at helter skelter speed into London through the roundabouts in light rain and on open roads free of traffic, but still slippery from some spilled oil.
Fortunately, we all got through safely, even if Spanish teammate David Lopez hurt his shoulder in a collision with a spectator. While fortunate he did not fall, he is still feeling sore for it.
But as exciting as the English stages were, I’m happy to be back in France, even if the transfer on Monday to the start town of stage four at the coastal town of Le Touquet-Paris-Plage led to a long day that ended with a late dinner and massage
Still, there won’t be any real relief until Wednesday night when we’ve got through the cobblestone stage.
I think I speak on behalf of 99.9 per cent of the peloton there.
I’ll be front up, but I have no experience racing on cobbles. We did a reconnaissance ride over them in preparation for the Tour.
I could be a bit cheeky and say I’ve had experience on the Champs Elysees when finishing the Tour; but they are not real cobbles, even if you feel them after three weeks of hard racing.
So how do we get on and face the cobbles in race conditions?
From what I understand, positioning in the bunch on the approach to each sector is the key, as is keeping a calm and cool head under pressure.
Fortunately, we have Bernie Eisel and Geraint Thomas, who both have a heap of experience of racing on cobblestones in Paris-Roubaix to protect and help us out.
Either way, for me I’ll be happy once the cobbles are well behind my rear wheel. And I wouldn’t expect that Paris-Roubaix will end up being on my to-do list after.
My cobbles experience will only be when I have to do it – such as on Wednesday.
Speak to any rider about Paris-Roubaix, and not many have had a pleasant experience. Ask me if anything excites me about the race, and I would say, "The finish line".
But hey … this is the Tour. And whatever terrain you face, you have to deal with it.
So, I’m ready.
Richie Porte is a member of team Sky