Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong has warned of impending “carnage” during the cobblestone-riddled stage three of the Tour de France.
Tuesday’s 213km stage from Wanze in Belgium to Arenberg in northern France features seven cobblestone sections that threaten to cause punctures, crashes and, at worst, entirely end the hopes of several victory contenders.
Cancer survivor Armstrong is racing his final Tour campaign this month in a bid to win an eighth yellow jersey, although that looks a tough challenge.
Defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain is the overall favourite just ahead of Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck. Armstrong finds himself among the handful of potential challengers.
While the 38-year-old Armstrong said it was great to be surrounded with his new RadioShack team, he reported his fears for stage three on his Twitter account.
“Done with the stage three reconnaissance. Going. To. Be. Carnage,” the American said.
The Tour organisers admitted they wanted to shake the race up as early as possible in a bid to introduce drama into a first week of racing that is often criticised.
After a first stage from Rotterdam to Brussels on Sunday, when the peloton could be buffeted by vicious coastal winds, stage three will be the next big test.
Several victory contenders have reconnoitred the stage in a bid to get a feel for the cobblestones, which are normally used on big one-day classics such as the Paris-Roubaix.
However some teams, including Garmin-Transitions, refused to do so in the belief that finding the best position possible in race conditions Tuesday will be key to emerging with hopes unscathed.
Nevertheless the team’s manager, former pro Jonathan Vaughters, admitted that no one is safe from the unpredictable threat of the cobbles.
“Someone will lose (all chance of winning) the race that day, I just don’t know who it’s going to be,” said Vaughters.
“It could be Lance, could be Contador, could be (Andy) Schleck.”