The Tour de France added a wrinkle this year with the fifth stage consisting of several cobblestone sections. But when the Tour was planned, they must not have anticipated the heavy rains that have made an already treacherous stage downright miserable.
Rain is bad enough. But the rain mixed with cobblestones has created muddy trails that would have been more appropriate for a mountain-bike race.
Originally, there were nine sections of cobblestones in stage. But the heavy rain forced officials to abandon two of the sections, decreasing the total distance of cobblestones from 15.8 to 13.4 kilometers.
The slippery conditions caused defending champions Chris Froome to crash in the second straight stage, ultimately forcing him to abandon the race.
Riders were crashing all over the place. Announcers estimated that as many as 24 riders had fallen before the riders even reached the first section of cobblestones.
But the real danger is on the cobblestones where riders not only risk injury, but increased chances of damaging their bikes and losing precious time.
These sections are used each year during the one-day Paris-Roubaix race. Some riders thrive on cobblestones, including Tour leader Vincenzo Nibali in the yellow jersey.
Meanwhile, many of these riders avoid that race, and some struggle mightily on the bumpy, wet trails.
There are lots of stages remaining, but many riders will be out of contention after today, thanks to these conditions.
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