Tour de France News for July 1, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
ASO Weighs its overseas options
By Chris Henry
Photo: © Peter Geyer
The Tour de France has made a tradition of expanding beyond the borders
of France, visiting neighbouring European countries with stage starts/finishes
and kicking off the "grand départ" outside of France on a regular
basis. Last year's Tour began in Luxembourg, while 2004 will see the race
start in Liège, Belgium.
This year, not surprisingly given the centenary celebrations, the Tour
route is entirely French. Nonetheless, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO),
which runs the Tour de France, continues to cast its eye farther afield
and entertain the numerous requests from around the world for the privilege
of hosting the world's biggest cycling race.
"Today, the Tour de France is invited frequently by other countries.
London wants a Tour start, we will start in Liège next year, we
receive requests from Germany, from the Netherlands... and also from America,"
explained Daniel Baal, ASO's director of cycling.
One day after returning from a trip to Québec, Baal sat down with
Cyclingnews to discuss plans for the Tour, as well as possibilities for
the race's geographic expansion in the coming years. While visits to European
countries have become routine, the Tour has never crossed the Atlantic.
In recent months, two candidates for a Tour start have been mentioned:
Québec and New York City. The question remains, given the size
and scope of the Tour, and the logistical challenges involved in moving
the people and equipment that make up the Tour, are these murmurs from
across the ocean serious?
"Quite formally from Québec, and New York is mentioned somewhat
regularly," Baal said. "At this point we have not really looked at the
requests. But we're not in a position to say no... keeping in mind that
the Tour de France is the Tour de France. It's a three week sporting
event, and the idea of traveling far away shouldn't compromise the event's
Québec's motivation for hosting a Tour start, planned for 2008,
is one of historical significance. July 3, 2008 will mark Québec's
400th anniversary, and local officials are eager to compliment the enormous
celebrations with a visit from France's greatest sporting event. Time
is, for the moment, on Québec's side, as Baal and the Tour de France
are not yet ready to commit to the venture. Indeed, an idea for a Tour
start in the French department of Guadeloupe was already scrapped due
to the logistical hurdles.
"We told the Québec that we are giving ourselves until the beginning
of 2005 to study very carefully all of the logistical issues (transportation,
stage times, transfers, rest days, etc.), and the sporting considerations,"
Baal explained. "I think that for the Tour de France, and for cycling,
a start for the biggest event on the American continent would be good
news. But for now we're not able to say yes or no.
As for New York, plans are considerably less concrete. In addition to
the logistical considerations, the question of financing arises. Normally
in France, cities and towns lobby- and pay- for the right to host a Tour
stage start and/or finish, whereas a city such as New York might expect
compensation of its own for the efforts involved in hosting a major sporting
event on public roads. Not to mention the city's current budget crisis
and ongoing efforts to host the 2012 summer Olympics.
"In our relationships with the cities, the cities are partners," Baal
said. "We have our own partners. We don't believe that if we went to New
York we could buy the start of the Tour, and then resell it. That sort
of business is not our objective. After that it becomes a question of
Look for the full interview with Daniel Baal coming soon on Cyclingnews.
Savoldelli out of Tour
Team Telekom has lost another leader for the Tour de France, as 2002
Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli has announced that he will forfeit
his place for the Tour. Savoldelli has been suffering from a stomach ailment,
and is not considered to be in good enough shape to contest the Tour.
"It doesn't make sense to enter a race this difficult when you're sick,"
team doctor Lothar Heinrich commented.
Savoldelli's place in the team will be taken by fellow Italian Giuseppe
Guerini, who is in fine form following his second place overall in the
Tour de Suisse behind teammate Alexandre Vinokourov.
"Our initial ideas have changed a bit," Telekom spokesman Luuc Eisenga
told Cyclingnews. "We had four really strong GC riders riding as a team
with Savoldelli, Botero, Evans, and Vinokourov."
Now with Evans lost to injury and Savoldelli to illness, the plan has
changed, although Eisenga has confidence in the line up. "I'm convinced
that a guy like Guerini, who finished second at the Tour de Suisse, could
do a really good race," he said. "He's not just a reserve."
Adding the Andreas Klöden has been coming into good form, Eisenga
expects a solid team, but concerning just who would be the Telekom leader
he added, "if you had to say, you'd think Botero and Vinokourov."
More Tour teams
Zabel on Ullrich
In an interview with Sport-Informations-Dienst, newly crowned German
national champion Erik Zabel offered his thoughts on the upcoming Tour,
and his former teammate Jan Ullrich. Zabel, already holder of the record
of six green jerseys (1996-2001), is set to challenge for his seventh,
proud to be entering the Tour with the German national champion's jersey
on his back.
"I see it as a great honour," Zabel said of his national title, "to be
able to wear the champion's jersey in the biggest bike race in the world."
Asked how this year's Tour might play out, with former leader Jan Ullrich
on rival Team Bianchi, Zabel acknowledged that an informal alliance could
present itself on the road. If strength in numbers is what will be necessary
to defeat defending champion Lance Armstrong, Zabel can envision cooperation
between Telekom and Ullrich.
"In cycling that happens frequently when teams have similar intentions,"
he explained. "Maybe we will form an alliance with Ullrich. If Armstrong
is on the attack and Ullrich is chasing, we will try to ride with him
in the chase."
Zabel sees his former teammate in good form, but like most, thinks Armstrong
remains the heavy favourite. "Jan is highly motivated, but Armstrong will
be hard to beat this year. Perhaps second or third place might be possible
Date with destiny for Euskaltel
Photo: © CN
Miguel Madariaga, manager of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team, considers this
year's Tour de France to be a crucial test for the Basque team. An extension
of the team's sponsorship could depend largely on big results in the centenary
"A good performance in the Tour could be decisive in our efforts to secure
sponsorship with Euskaltel and the other sponsors," Madariaga explained.
"Everything is going well, and all we can do is hope."
In the midst of his sponsorship efforts, Madariaga will also have to
work to keep his star performer Iban Mayo, who has announced openly that
he is entertaining offers from other teams. Mayo, Euskaltel's leader for
the Tour, finished second to Lance Armstrong in the Dauphiné Libéré
in June, and showed a potential to at least challenge the American in
the mountains as well as against the clock.
Madariaga said that negotiations are going well, and is counting on Mayo
to lead the team to success in France. "It's our best team in three years,"
he added. "Iban is a great rider, for the Tour and for other races, and
we expect a lot from him."
Leblanc to carry on
Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc has extended his contract
with the Amaury Sport Organisation beyond 2004, the initial date announced
for his retirement from the position. Leblanc, 59, has not announced just
how long he will stay, but told l'Equipe that he was offered an extension
by ASO president Patrice Clerc, and was happy to accept.
Daniel Baal, director of cycling with ASO, joined the organisation in
2001 after having served as head of the French Cycling Federation. Baal
is expected to take the helm at the Tour de France when Leblanc retires,
but concerning Leblanc's extension, said only, "I was recruited as assistant
director, and I'm continuing my contract in that capacity."
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