Bardet opts for smaller stones. Cobblestones too big.

Pas de cobbles for Bardet

There may be 21.7 kilometers of Paris-Roubaix cobblestones in the 2018 Tour de France, but Romain Bardet won’t be doing any live ammunition training for the ordeal.

Like many of his skinny stage race rivals, Bardet is unwilling to take the risk of crashing and injuring himself and putting his Tour de France chances at risk. The cobblestones are dangerous and unpredictable, slippery and treacherous, and the Frenchman decided non, trop, c’est trop.

Instead, Bardet is opting for a cobblestone-lite approach to preparing for the 15 sections of ornery stones on stage 9 from Arras to Roubaix. He’ll head to Italy for the white gravel roads of Strade Binache.

“It’s a race that makes me dream,” Bardet told Le Monde. “The team knows that I’m keen to do my Classics, and they’ve left me to follow my instincts, which is to rub shoulders with Classics riders, all while minimizing risks. It’s a good compromise.” The AG2R star isn’t stupid — cobbles hurt.

Bardet isn’t against practicing on the stones, he’d just like them to be a lot smaller and less nasty. Compared to the meaty cobblestones of Northern France, he prefers the cute little white ones in Italy. Far less chance of ripping up a knee, fracturing an elbow or snapping a collarbone. That’s no way to get ready to battle Chris Froome and stop him from joining a select group of legends in the Five Tour wins club.

Still, it’s not quite the same experience. The charming white gravel roads of Tuscany are hardly a match for the Hell of the North. Strade Bianche is more like the Mild Discomfort of the South. It’s nothing that strikes fear in the mind and body of a spindly stage racer. You don’t even have to shower after the race in those depressing old concrete showers at the velodrome.

There’s no Forest or Arenberg or Carrefour de l’Arbre on the gravel roads around Sienna. Yeah, the peloton might kick up some dust and that may sting the eyes but it’s by no means suffering on the Roubaix scale.It’s more a light and amusing diversion from the paved roads, a little pastoral interlude before the tarmac makes its smooth return. Barbet should have little trouble negotiating these micro-cobbles.

There’s no preparation for riding cobblestones except to do the nasty deed and ride the cobblestones. Bardet says he wants to rub shoulders with the classics riders. That’s nice but hardly a skills class for Roubaix-inflicted pain. It’s not shoulder rubbing he needs; it’s rock racing.








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