In his stage-by-stage guide for BBC Sport, Mark Cavendish said: "It's going to be the first fight between the general classification guys but I don't see it playing a big factor in the overall result at this stage of the race". The course is also known for its fierce cross winds in the final kilometers, which will force the formation of echelons and cause problems for the riders hoping to contend a bunch sprint finish.
But for Froome, it was a case of job done.
"This is a very big victory - since a long time".
"It's just been a really hectic and nervous race for the whole first week", Kung said. "I'm not afraid. I want to be in a good position, and I trust my team".
Chris Froome may be breathing a sigh of relief after he survived the stage despite suffering a crash of his own.
Last year's runner-up Rigoberto Uran also hit the asphalt 30 kilometers from the finish.
The losses for Education First-Drapac's Uran were more considerable as he gave up nearly 90 seconds to Froome and others.
Among the favorites in the overall standings apart from Froome: Alejandro Valverde is fifth (1:31 behind); Rafal Majka sixth (1:32); Jakob Fuglsang seventh (1:33); Adam Yates ninth (1:42); Landa 10th (1:42); and Vincenzo Nibali 12th (1:48).
The cobble, or "pave" in French, is as respected in cycling as the mightiest of mountains, and those specialists who have mastered the uneven surface are the clear favorites to win the stage.
"The breakaway was kind of a déjà vu at Paris-Roubaix three years ago".
But in 2016 the 29-year-old German came close to losing a finger amid a litany of injuries suffered when a auto driving down the wrong side of the road wiped out him and several team-mates during a training ride in Calpe, Spain. "I tried to give them confidence but it is hard".
Van Avermaet's teammate Tejay van Garderen and Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step are five and six seconds back respectively.
Degenkolb's victory came at the end of a crash strewn stage, which lived up to expectations of being a key one for general classification contenders.
The BMC team leader broke his collarbone and pelvis in last year's crash and was faced with the same decision to abandon after today's crash.
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