The 199km route around Troyes on Stage 9 of next year’s race will feature 32.2km of gravel roads, distributed across 14 sections. It will likely be a nervous day for those chasing the maillot jaune, with survival from incident or injury the key objective.
Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep) and team manager Richard Plugge and Patrick Lefevere are among those to publicly oppose its inclusion already, with gravel posing an “unnecessary” risk that shouldn’t be a deciding factor at the Tour.
“I’m not sure [gravel stages have a place]. I think it’s still road cycling,” Mohorič told Cyclingnews at Rouleur Live. “I understand that most guys, especially the GC guys, put so many months of work into this and for a puncture or a crash to ruin or limit their chances, it’s a little bit of a tricky situation. I’m not sure if it has a place in a Grand Tour.”
Mohorič, ever the thinker, was understanding of why a test of the “most complete rider” could include being able to navigate off-road stages but concluded that he and the rest of the peloton were just at the mercy of race organisers so they would simply have to get on with it.
“Maybe they could at least figure out a rule to not use it on GC but on the other hand, maybe the GC is a reward for the most complete rider, so it’s it’s a discussion, it’s an open discussion,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s the organisers who decide.”
Tour de France route designer Thierry Gouvenou said in response to the criticism that they “had to come up with something clever” in order to break up what would otherwise be a long run of flat stages in the opening half of the Tour.
Mohorič’s hesitance says a lot given he will likely head into the off-road stage as one of the favourites alongside the likes of Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), with the luxury of not chasing GC allowing him to throw caution to the wind.
“I didn’t check it [the full route] yet in detail. But I don’t mind the gravel stage in there,” said Mohoric. “I just know that with gravel there’s always chaos, so I have the luxury of not caring about the GC and I can take more risks to try and exploit the opportunity.
“My goal [at the Tour] is going to be to stage wins again, so hopefully, there will be chances for breakaways.”