Dean: Great start, but now for dreaded cobbles

JULIAN DEAN
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014
Mark Cavendish
Reuters
AT FAULT: Mark Cavendish not only ended his tour last weekend by crashing, he also badly hurt Simon Gerrans.

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OPINION: The Tour de France is back on familiar ground after beginning with three days racing in England and what a start it was.

In terms of the impact an event can have, the start of the Tour couldn't have been as big and I don't know if we'll ever see it as big again in our lifetime.

For Orica-Greenedge it's been pretty difficult first few days. We were hedging our bets on Simon Gerrans in the first stage, but he had a nasty crash with Mark Cavendish.

Our first real target was stage two and we hoped Simon might have been able to recover in time but he hit the deck too hard and was suffering all over his body.

So we shifted the focus through the second stage to Michael Albasini, who did really well. It was a tough race for him because to finish in that front group was a big effort as he's not a climber like the other guys up front.

Those efforts got him to third in the GC and we'll see if we can have a crack at yellow, although we are going to be up against it.

Clearly the biggest talking point has been the crash between Mark and Simon. It resulted in Mark withdrawing from the race, but hats off to him for doing the sporting thing. He realised he made a mistake and no one wants to crash or cause anyone any injuries.

It doesn't make it any easier for us, but he made the choice to pick up the phone and talk to Simon, which is something you don't see too often in sport these days.

Tonight the Tour hits the cobbles in what could be one of the decisive stages of the three weeks.

I'm not a big fan of having the cobbles in the Tour de France, but often it's about creating a spectacle and they do that.

But what I don't like is that a guy will never win the Tour on a day where there's cobbles, but there may be some who lose it and that's not how you want to see a Tour de France played out.

For us, we've got some good riders on the cobbles. Mathew Hayman is very good and the young Belgian guy, Jens Keukeleire.

But we're going up against some pretty big heavy hitters, who've got good records on the paving stones, such as Fabian Cancellara, but the guys' spirits are pretty good and if the opportunity comes they'll make the most of it.

It will be a different sort of race over the cobbles in the Tour to what it is in the one-day classics like Paris Roubaix, that's because in the classics all of the guys are toughened to ride on cobbles, consequently there is less drama and fewer accidents.

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But the GC [general classification] guys racing at the Tour de France have little or no experience on the cobbles, so they get nervous and their teams get nervous, because they know that very easily they could lose the Tour de France on that day.

Two of the three stages in England were won by the German sprinter Marcel Kittel, who at the moment is phenomenal.

If we remember a few years ago to how Mark Cavendish was dominating sprints, he's doing that. My feeling is that Marcel is stronger and faster than Mark was at his best.

He's chalking up wins already, so confidence is going to be good and it's going to be difficult for any of the sprinters to overcome that.

There might be one or two stages won by other sprinters, but Marcel is going to be hard to beat, he's incredibly powerful and has a good team around him now.

*Julian Dean rode the Tour de France seven times and is working on this year's Tour as assistant sporting director for the Orica-Greenedge team. 

- Stuff

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