Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France, last week in Bilbao.Fernando Domingo-Aldama
Christian Prudhomme (Saint-Omer, France; 60 years old) is a television journalist, but since 2007 he has been on the other side of the cameras as director of the Tour de France. "Although my job is that of reporter, the direction of the race is a mission," he says. In Bilbao, where he spent the weekend, he presented the start of 2023 , "which the Basques have insistently requested," he assures.
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Question. How is the Health Tour in the middle of the pandemic?
Response. The health of the Tour is good, the same as always. The impact of the race has been the same as in other years and we are at the top, at the top. It is true that it could not be followed so closely by fans on the roadside, but the television audiences have been satisfactory, because people were at home. Yes it has affected cycling in general because many races were suspended. The foundation of cycling was damaged
Q. Have you lost financial support after a year of crisis?
R. No, the sponsors are still there. It is true that we have had to make an effort because many of the races that we organize have not been able to take place and more money has been spent in preparing the mandatory protocols due to the pandemic
Q. Did you think at some point last year that the Tour would not Could it be held?
A. Not really. The worst moment we experienced was in spring, because we did not know when it could be done, but we were moving forward in coordination with the authorities. We hold the pull well.
Q. Will you follow the same sanitary protocols this year?
R. We will adapt them. Last year, if there were two positives on the same team, all riders on that team had to retire. It affected 30 members of the group. That was the biggest fear we had, but we managed to establish the measures to avoid it, to protect the cyclists and their environment. That worked for us. Now the advancement of vaccination will make things easier
Q. Will there be some kind of privilege to vaccinate cyclists
R. Obviously not
Q. Do you expect to return to normal in 2022?
A. We hope, yes. That there are people in the gutters and in the mountains is essential. The proximity of the public gives a different dimension to the Tour, or the Champions League. That there are young people, old people, people of any profession or age, who come to see the cycling champions, who are also waiting to be able to race among the people. We dream of the moment when we can say: Out with masks! Let cyclists see people's smile
"We need an audience in the gutters and in the mountains"
Q. The Tour has changed a lot since it started, but the director's work?
R. Also. The only common characteristic among directors is that we have all been journalists. I worked in radio and television, but I am not doing like Henri Desgrange or Jacques Goddet, who wrote their chronicles or columns at the end of the stages, it would no longer be possible. Now 184 cyclists run and there are more than 2,000 accredited journalists. When Jean Marie Leblanc hired me to succeed him, I did not have the impression that I was leaving journalism, but I have realized that what I do now is like a mission, it is not a job. It has become my life.
Q. Where were you most surprised by the impact of the Tour?
R. In Yorkshire, in 2014. In the Basque Country it is more normal to find the fervor of the people, but there were two millions of people on the street. We did not expect that, it was extraordinary, incredible. There are two audiences that are the best, the one from Flanders and the Basque, who understand cycling, know the riders, and cheer. When we got to Yorkshire we saw that it was the same there too. It is a great challenge for the Basque Country to do better and exceed those figures .
Q. Are the Tour organizers afraid that the dark times of the doping scandals will ever return?
R. As the president of the movement for credible cycling, Roger Legeay says, you have to keep the flame burning. In any activity, and more so in a sporting activity, there are always people who want to break the rules and cheat, you have to be very careful. I want to believe that cycling, which has been considered as the black sheep, has already overcome that painful past.
"Never have so many young talents appeared at the same time"
Q. Cycling seems to have abruptly changed generations. From the winners of more than 30 years, it has gone to those who do not reach 25.
R. It is surprising. There have always been young champions, like Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault, or like Fignon, but never have so many young talents appeared at the same time. I do not know why. Perhaps in part it is due to the pandemic. The most veteran have had to change their habits, they have not been able to continue with their routine, with their workouts, and the younger ones adapt better to the changes
Q. Just for that?
A. Obviously, there have to be other reasons. Egan Bernal, a young boy, won the 2019 Tour, and we all said that there was a winner for many years, that he could win five or six, and the following year Pogacar appears , still younger [21 years old then], and wins. I see that they are young and brave, capable of attacking 50, 60 or 100 kilometers from the goal. It is another way of looking at cycling, with a lot of momentum, and that the fans appreciate it.
Q. The end of the 2020 Tour (Pogacar went back to Roglic in the final clock ) was fantastic for its unexpected end, don't you think?
R . Security. It is an ending that we would dream of always having. On the clock, he was in the car with the president of the Department of the Planche des Belles Filles, following Thibaut Pinot. I got to the press room, and the people who were there couldn't be sitting in the chair. They were going around saying: "This is not possible." Everyone thought that the victory of Roglic, who had dominated the entire Tour with his team, was inevitable, and suddenly a young man arrives and gives the surprise. We put that time trial ending for that. Then you have to see if it works or not. And Pogacar beat them all .
P. A winner from Slovenia, a country with little cycling tradition.
R. That is the strength of the Tour. In 20 years, Slovenia will be a country with a cycling tradition. In France, nobody watched swimming on television, but Laure and Florent Manaudou, medal winners at the Olympic Games, appeared and everyone watched swimming. Champions are attractive to people.
Bilbao asked to leave 25 years ago and Barcelona ruled it out last week
Prudhomme presented the Tour's departure from Bilbao for the 2023 edition and assured then that the Basque authorities had been very insistent. “That was very surprising to me. I came to Bilbao for the first time in 2016, invited by my friend Javier Guillén to the Vuelta. They reminded me that they wanted the Tour in Euskadi. The candidacy was 25 years old! The first request to Jean Marie Leblanc was from 1996, for the 2000 Tour. When I was deputy director, they sent a letter to ASO [organizing entity] in which they asked to be in 2013: during those 25 years, the Basque Government, Bizkaia and Bilbao have constantly asked for the Tour to come. I was not aware. It is a unique case. We should have come a long time ago. We have a lot of nominations, from the UK, from Italy. 10 years ago, we had planned an exit from Barcelona. There came a stage there and we talked about it with those responsible for the city, but the leaders changed and the new ones did not have that interest. We depend a lot on politicians, who change every four years. With Barcelona we had come a long way, but then it was over. ”
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