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Cobbles set to wreak havoc on Tour field

Lance Armstrong, defending champion Alberto Contador and nearly half of the riders in this year's Tour de France have already been involved in crashes after only two stages -- and the casualty rate is about to get even worse.

Seven-time Tour champion Armstrong and his biggest rival Contador were caught up in a series of crashes yesterday as several riders went down during a rain-soaked second stage.

Most fell in the Stockeu pass downhill, towards the end of the 201km ride from Brussels to Spa, after a motorbike crashed and spilled oil minutes onto the road before the cyclists arrived.

Sunday's first stage was also marred by crashes. But all that drama could be nothing compared to what the bunch faces in today's 213km ride from Wanze, Belgium, to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut in France.

The stage features seven cobblestone sectors, including four in the last 30km. More crashes are expected on the 13.2km of cobbles.

"Going.To.Be.Carnage," Armstrong wrote on his Twitter feed last week after scouting out the stage.

"Someone will lose the race that day, I just don't know who it's going to be. It could be Lance, could be Alberto, could be (Andy) Schleck," Garmin-Transitions team manager Jonathan Vaughters said.

Armstrong, who lies fifth in the overall standings and leads Contador by five seconds, has the upper hand on his rival on the cobblestones. Armstrong is more experienced on them while Contador first rode on cobbles only this season.

"Lance is better on the cobbles," RadioShack boss Johan Bruyneel said. "But to drop somebody tomorrow will be difficult."

To avoid crashes, all teams will want to ride at the front of the peloton before entering the cobbles.

"That was important to see them," Bruyneel said, referring to the scouting of the stage. "And it actually was worse than we thought."

Earlier this season, Armstrong showed that he could handle the cobblestones with a strong showing at the one-day classic Tour of Flanders

Meanwhile, in yesterday's stage, Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel collected his second career Tour stage win to take the leader's yellow jersey off Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara.