In preparation for the cobblestones in this year’s Tour de France, two time champion Alberto Contador decided to consult a PhD in Pave, Peter Van Petegem. This is like asking Master Yoda about the light saber or Iron Chef Bobby Flay how to crack eggs.
Van Petegem’s credentials are beyond question: two wins in the Ronde van Vlaanderen and a first place in Paris-Roubaix. The dark-skinned Pete practically looks Spanish so Alberto feels a certain closeness.
Contador is quizzing him about the cobbles because stage three of this years’ Tour de France features over 13 kilometers of stone around Wanze, Belgium and Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut.
Aging but dangerous rival Lance Armstrong has already ridden the Tour of Flanders for his homework and previous rumors had him building a cobblestone test track outside his hometown base in Austin.
Contador has admitted on several occasions that he has little experience riding the cobblestones. Here’s just a sampling of the questions El Pistelero is firing at Van Petegem:
What’s pave? Does that have anything to do with road paving or it is Dutch for panini sandwich?
Why are they so jarring when I ride my bike over them? Can they be removed in any way? It is illegal to have someone else ride that part for me?
Are the brownish ones worse than the grey or blueish- grey cobbles? What colors should I avoid?
Do I need one of those fat lady wide seats so I can ride in extra comfort?
Do riders ever throw the stones at each other?
What if it rains — what do I do then? What’s Belgian toothpaste — it sounds unpleasant.
Would attaching children’s training wheels help me with stability on the cobbles? Is that an issue with the UCI. They banned my Shiv, then un-banned it.
What do I do when my hands go numb and I can’t grip my handlebars? Did you ever glue your hands to the bars?
I’m worried about all the shaking over the cobbles unsetting my stomach. Can I still eat my usual race food or would something like baby food be easier to digest?
Once Alberto Contador has all these answers, he should be ready to confront the challenges of the cobblestones. Are Andy Schleck and Bradley Wiggins ready for the road of stones?
You want to win the 2010 Tour de France, you better sign up with a good cobblestone tutor.