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News Feature, February 9, 2009
Prudhomme's desert vision
Christian Prudhomme believes that one day Qatar could seriously bid for a Tour de France start. Having been in the affluent middle eastern nation recently as Tour of Qatar director, the man who also calls the shots at Le Tour is not ruling anything out. One of Amaury Sport Organisation's most dynamic and influential players, Prudhomme explained to Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown why he's not saying 'Never'.
Now in its eighth year, the Tour of Qatar was another battle of the sprinters in 2009. Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen dominated the race, with the latter recording his third overall victory.
There was another story to emerge, albeit off the road - the possibility that Qatar could one day host the start of the world's biggest annual cycling event, the Tour de France. Sound far fetched? Tour de France - and Tour of Qatar - boss Christian Prudhomme doesn't think so. He cites the organisation of cycling and other sports within Qatar in a short period of time as proof that the nation could aspire to bigger things.
Cyclingnews: What did you think of the race this year?
If you told someone that the whole race is flat they wouldn't imagine that it would be that interesting, but with the wind there really was a race. It wasn't certain that this would be the case when the event began in 2002. Then, they would've said, 'Okay, it's [a race] to prepare for other events.'
CN: Do you think that Tom Boonen's Qatar titles are important
CN: How has the race grown since you took over in 2007?
CN: What is Qatar gaining from this race?
CN: Why does the country of Qatar put on this race?
It is very impressive; they want Qatar to be a name in international sports. I am sure it is already a name and will continue to be so. The Tour of Qatar is one piece of the overall puzzle.
CN: Do you think we could see the Tour de France come here in
It could be completely crazy, but we can never say 'never'. Twenty years ago, it would have been crazy to say that there would be a Grand Départ in London in 2007 and that it would be so huge that it would be unforgettable.
CN: Is the Tour of Qatar the first step to hosting the Tour de
CP: It is the first step. Sunday is the first Ladies' Tour of Qatar, and in the future they want to have track racing. If you see only one part of the puzzle you would say that 'it is crazy', but when you put all of the pieces together you don't know.
CN: How would the race, the riders and the infrastructure travel
You cannot have a great departure of the Tour de France without the crowds. However, we cannot say 'never'. It is an official bid, we have to work on it and try it.
CN: What was it like your first time in Qatar?
In Europe we are hit by the economic crisis, but here it is so impressive. They have the resources of oil and gas to last for hundreds of years.
Note: Cyclingnews conducted this interview the day before 21-year-old Frederiek Nolf died in his sleep at the Tour of Qatar, hence the lack of discussion surrounding the young Belgian's death. We apologise for any offence caused as a result.
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Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Régis Garnier/www.velofotopro.com