"For France, the Tour is much more than a cycling race" - Christian Prudhomme on the importance of the Tour de France

The biggest and most widely known cycling race on the planet, the Tour de France has a special feeling around it that just cannot be replicated anywhere else. Ahead of the 2024 edition, race director Christian Prudhomme has been open and honest about the deep connection between the race and the French people.

"The philosophy of the Amaury (ASO) family is also different from the image that is created of them. Many people in the cycling world will not believe what I am about to say. The most important thing the family strives for is that the Tour can be viewed by as many people as possible." says Prudhomme in RIDE Magazine. “That is why they also want agreements with public channels and they certainly do not want the Tour to be behind a decoder and/or paywall. Their goal is to spread the word about the Tour as widely as possible, so that the people can watch the race for free. They are not interested in making as much money as possible, but in making the event as popular as possible.”

With the news of a general election pending in the nation, there was some very genuine concern that the Tour de France could be affected as voters flocked to the polls. Thankfully, things look like proceeding without issue but as Prudhomme says himself, the importance of the French government behind the scenes of the Tour de France cannot be overstated.

“We often say that the most important minister for us is not the Minister of Sports, but the Minister of the Interior,” Prudhomme confirms. “We need the government's approval to organize the Tour. I sometimes say: the French government is our boss. If the Minister of the Interior does not support us, there will be no Tour de France.”

“The 28,000 gendarmes who protect the course, the police on motorcycles, the fire brigade, etc. Without the Minister of the Interior, they are not there. That is something that the cycling world is not aware of. As stakeholders in cycling, we can decide what we want among ourselves, but without the approval of that minister we cannot do anything," the race organiser continues.

“Take the corona Tour as an example. Of course we all worked well together. The UCI, organizers, teams and riders have joined forces. But the Tour only went ahead because the President of the French Republic said there should be a Tour. Look, it was easy for us to talk in Place Beauvau (Ministry of the Interior in Paris, ed.) when it was said from above that the Tour must happen. Without that support we wouldn't have been anywhere," Prudhomme concludes. “I sometimes have the feeling that the cycling world does not understand that it is not all that simple. Especially under difficult circumstances, it is sometimes no longer up to us to decide. For France, the Tour is much more than a cycling race.”

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