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"We want the best riders in the world there from the start of the year to the end, so that there’s a real narrative with all of the champions together throughout the season from one race to the next," Prudhomme said.

Photo: Sirotti






21.10.2014 @ 15:30 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

The Tour de France race director, Christian Prudhomme, will reveal the route of the 2015 edition of la Grande Boucle on Wednesday, October 22. Before it happens, though, he agreed to traditionally share his reflections on a current and future picture of the discipline and currently hottest topics in sports media, including investigation on Astana, Oleg Tinkov’s proposal or a revival of cycling in France in Germany.


The route of the upcoming 102nd edition of the Tour de France wasn’t a part of the interview conducted by Cyclingnews, as it will be officially revealed in Paris on Wednesday.


Prudhomme also refused to comment on the current situation of Astana and its potential consequences on their Tour appearance next season, but was opened for discussion about the three Grand Tour challenge proposed by the Tinkoff-Saxo owner.


Commenting on Tinkov’s challenge, the Tour de France race director emphasized an importance of having all the best riders competing in biggest events throughout the season. There was no coincidence, though, that Prudhomme used a French terminology to call it a “big randezvous” while explaining, that is doesn’t necessarily require their participation in all three-week long races.


“For me, it’s important that the biggest riders are in the biggest races but that doesn’t necessarily mean the three Grand Tours. It means the big rendezvous throughout the season, which in other eras the likes of Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault used to take part in. We want the best riders in the world there from the start of the year to the end, so that there’s a real narrative with all of the champions together throughout the season from one race to the next. That’s the most important thing, and more important than having them ride the three Grand Tours in one year.”


We can assume that having Contador, Froome, Quintana and Nibali lining up at the Tour de France along with Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, Criterium du Dauphine or few other events organized by ASO would do well enough in his opinion…


Prudhomme also made it absolutely clear than while shortening Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana to make Tinkov’s challenge feasible and as a part of the UCI calendar reformation to be implemented in 2017, any way of reducing the Tour won’t be even considered.


“The short answer is that there’s no possibility that the Tour will be shortened or reduced.”


“There are discussions that are ongoing and there have been meetings, but what really counts is that the narrative of cycling is the most beautiful possible and that the leading names are there all year around, especially at the big rendezvous. Beyond that, of course, it’s simply good sense not to have races of the same level running concurrently. But fundamentally, the important thing is that the big riders are there throughout the year, and not just on the three Grand Tours.”


The 201st edition of the Tour de France was the most successful for French riders since many seasons, with both Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot ( finishing on the podium and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) proving himself as another strong general classification contender for the future. Being pleased with a revival of French cycling and its knock-on effect on la Grande Boucle and smaller events organized in the country Prudhomme emphasized, that from his own perspective its only equally important as having Tour winners from nations relatively new to road cycling.


“Of course, it’s important for a race or any sporting event to have champions from its own country. For the Tour it’s good to have French contenders, and it’s also essential that there are champions from the historic countries of cycling in general.”


“On the other hand, it’s also formidable and necessary to have champions from new cycling countries. I’m thinking about Australia in 2011 with Cadel Evans. Even if the first Australian yellow jersey had been 30 years previously with Phil Anderson, it was still something new and important. We then had the impact of the first two British winners of the Tour, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, and then we had an exceptional, extraordinary – humongous! – Grand Départ in Yorkshire. So that’s very important too.”


“But in cycling it’s all a question of balance – you need champions from the traditional countries too, from Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.”


“Yes, seeing French riders like Péraud, Pinot and Bardet in the battle for the podium and the general classification, and others winning stages and Ag2r winning the teams classification – all of that brings a certain fascination and a level of interest with it. When you have a champion, there’s an influx, people row in behind them and the passion returns.”


“And it’s the same thing for cycling, of course, with these French riders who are emerging. So naturally, the French came back to the Tour again this year thanks to the performances of their champions.”


“The television audience was the best we’ve had for ten years, and that’s impressive when you consider that television audiences are more dispersed now because there are more and more channels on offer. So the numbers from Paris-Tours on television – around 700,000 people watched the finish – are important. In races like that, more so than in the Tour de France, the quality of the home riders is of capital importance.”


For that reason, ASO and Tour de France director were accused of paying too big attention to promoting races and the discipline as a whole outside French borders. Prudhomme insists, though, that all their activities were taken in order to develop cycling in general, as well as in the country and their own business.


“There’s no tension although maybe from some people there’s sometimes a bit of concern. It seems to me that all of our activities in the last few years have been designed towards the development of cycling in general, the development of our business and also to support French cycling.”


“We know well that French cycling is important for the Tour de France, there’s no doubt about that. But without ASO, Paris-Nice wouldn’t exist anymore. Without ASO, the Dauphiné wouldn’t exist anymore. And that’s true in Belgium too with Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche Wallonne – these are races that have made the history of cycling, we know very well just how important they are.”


“When we go abroad with the Tour de France, what we’re looking for first of all is passion. And I think in France, too, people understand that we found great passion for cycling when we went to Great Britain last year, and we’ll find it next summer too when we go to Utrecht for the start of the 2015 Tour. We don’t say ourselves, ‘let’s go and look for money.’ We go looking for passion and enthusiasm for the race. And we ask ourselves – ‘Is there a race here? Are there champions?’ Afterwards, of course, where there is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of people, that naturally transforms into business too, but the point of departure is always passion.”


This year’s edition of the Tour saw not only the revival of French cycling, but a record number of stages taken by Germany riders courtesy of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), Tony Martin (Omega Pharma – Quick Step) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). The race director was cautious to definitely call it a raise of the discipline, saying that the biggest European country is currently in a state between désamour and amour fou.


Whether it’s next year or later on, I don’t know, but it is certain that Germany is emerging from this period where it had fallen out of love with cycling. There was a period of crazy love, of amour fou, in Germany and that was then followed by a period of désamour fou. Now we’re in a new era that’s a little bit between those two sentiments.”

“There was a record number of stage wins by German riders in the Tour 2014 with André Greipel, Tony Martin and Kittel. The time has arrived to make a return to Germany. Whether it’s in 2015 or later, I don’t know, but there’s a new era dawning and Germany is ready to consider cycling differently, without getting back to the crazy love of ten years ago or the désamour fou of more recent times.”



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