“There are cities you cannot skip; The tour should have gone back to Donostia »

The Tour’s general manager, Christian Prudhomme (Paris, 62), is visiting the Basque Country a hundred days after the start of the French Grand Prix in July with three stages on the roads of the Basque Country. This Thursday received Basque Diaries, hours before the visit to San Sebastian, where the second stage will end, on July 2, after touring the interior of Gipuzkoa and through which the third stage will also go after skirting the entire coast of Gipuzcon before going to Iparalde via Irun. He knows his ground, aware of his situation, and his conversation is as friendly as it is professional.

– The Tour seems to be looking for two types of Grand Départ: one in cities and countries where it promotes touring and cycling, and the other, where it recognizes and celebrates the importance of cycling at its starting point. Is this the case for Euskadi?

– We are always very welcome everywhere, but it is true that the Basque people know cycling and they know champions. In some places, people support the event but here they know the contestants without a doubt. It’s very nice to go to places where you know people love to ride bikes and where they know bikes well, whether it’s the Tour or other races or cyclists. To feel. This is, of course, the case in the Basque Country.

– What do you remember from the last time, when the tour left San Sebastian in 1992?

– It’s a very personal thing, because I was a young journalist of thirty. He worked for Tele 5, which is also known here and in Italy, which is owned by Berlusconi. There was a French version, but he died in the spring of 1992 and I was left unemployed. When the Tour started in San Sebastian, with Miguel Indurain’s win, I was running a rally between Paris and Beijing, with a Mitsubishi, and pulled away from what was the start of ’92. I followed it, but from a distance. In the Mongolian steppe! (He laughs). I watched it less on TV for this reason, because I was unemployed and started on this project, an activity that was not journalism. I read about it in the papers, but I haven’t tried it on the site.

– In 1992, cycling in the Basque Country was at its peak and now, on the contrary, it is experiencing a low moment. How does the tour see this development? Could it be a shock?

– I wish the best for cycling in the Basque Country. Last year, at the start in Copenhagen, there was a Dane who won the Tour after three weeks. I don’t think the Basques will win this year, but a great start is a good opportunity to relaunch and revive elite racing in the Basque Country. To mobilize again amateur and active cycling forces.

– Did you know that cycling at the Basque level is having a hard time, that at the time of the Tour’s exit, the races of the lower classes were suspended due to problems with their propulsion?

– I didn’t know, but it’s something that generally happens in cycling everywhere. It happens in France. We’ve also seen in the UK that many races are suspended, because the organizers who don’t have a relay are getting old. However, new guys appeared. I don’t think it’s a typical Euskadi phenomenon, but it happens in the cycling world every single day. Cycling must continue to maintain its popular character. Along with cycling’s elite, and I’m not talking champions, along with people with money to buy expensive bikes, there should be bikes available to everyone. It is true that in France there are also these problems, and in the UK many races have stopped. You have to take care of the cycling that forms the base of the pyramid.

– Today you will be in San Sebastian, a city closely associated with the Tour. Do you like back on the streets?

– It is clear. San Sebastian is the first stage in the history of the Tour to reach this side of the Pyrenees. The win went to Louis Cabot, who was a sprinter and then the symbolic sporting director of Raymond Poulidor, a great figure in cycling. In 1992, the first Grand Départ in history, so the Basque Country, San Sebastian, is still ahead. In addition, Donostia is geographically very close to France and has bays of exceptional beauty. When you see La Concha beach, you want to go, discover it and come back. Proximity to Jaizkibel, right next door, is another attractive factor. The Clásica de San Sebastián is a relatively young race, but of course all the champions know it. It will rise in the opposite direction of the Classica, but the cyclists already know what awaits them. For cycling enthusiasts it will be amazing. The setting couldn’t be more beautiful and then the Basque authorities also wanted to show us the beauty of Euskadi. What impressed me most about the Basque Country is that they have asked us to come here since 1992, every year. It is something that has never happened to us. No one was that insistent. Therefore, we could not go to San Sebastian. When we see Grand Départ requests, there are many cities like this that you can’t skip. You have Jaizkibel with this climb and after a few minutes the finish line in one of the most beautiful bays in the world.

– You mentioned Bouldur. The third stage will pass through Irun, the city of José María Irandúña…

– correct? Of course, just before the border!

– What a displeasure he gave you when you were a boy …

– Poulidor made me fall in love with the Tour de France. In 1967 I was very young. And if today there is a legend about the yellow jersey that Poulidor never got, it is thanks to José María Erandonia, who won the first stage, against the clock, in Angers when everyone had already taken “Bobo’s” victory for granted. It was a big disappointment for me and all the poulidouristas, but if he had gone two seconds faster his legend wouldn’t have existed, so “merci” José María. Thank you so much for helping to build the legend of Raymond Poulidor (laughs).

– This tour will take place not only on this side of Bidasoa but also on Iparaldi Roads. There will be a final stage in Bayona for the 31st time.

– Since 2003 we haven’t been to Bayona. The city wanted the tour, its own town hall. I don’t think I’m betraying any secret if I say that when I came in Lindakari said to me “Mr. Director, you know Bayona’s candidacy is there too”. I told him I had no vocation to disappoint those who trusted us. In the face of sports balance, there will be two stages for runners and another for runners so that there is a balance in the competition. The fourth is for runners. A ride here with riders like Vingegaard, Pogacar, Van Aert and Van der Poel is guaranteed to be a show. And the champions of the Basque Country, like Mikel Landa, or the French, like David Godot, will not be left behind either. The best will be in the lead on the first day of the tour. Bayona is the birthplace of Didier Deschamps, the French soccer team, we’re going to invite him. I know that area very well.

– A tour requires a very significant investment, and in this case public. How do you convince a citizen who is not clear about the appropriateness of this initiative that it is a good idea?

It is broadcast in 190 countries around the world. Euskadi will appear throughout the planet and in all its dimensions. Five hours of live broadcasts will be shown for each stage, and after that, the five thousand people who make up this mobile city will be shown from the tour. This only represents the organization, journalists, cyclists and those who work in the race. Then there are all those who come to see it or because the race is on, decide to come and spend a few days in the Basque Country. When you watch the tour on TV you say “next year I want to spend my holidays there”. And there is more…

– Say say.

– There is a picture of the coming years. The ability of a country, region or city to demonstrate its ability to carry out the largest events in the world. This is very proud. The ability to work together, as a team, the Basques have a very precise word, auzolana, which is lacking in the French language. Once you work together on an event like this, it will work better in other areas where cities or countries have to come together. They consolidated their forces in the Euskadi region.

– In Denmark in 2020, the focus at the start of the Tour was more on the bike than cycling. Is there a commitment to developing bike use before racing?

– The Tour de France is an incentive for more people to go cycling. This issue is much more important now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. We encourage bike use as much as possible for daily trips, such as walking or using public transportation. We are talking about the struggle for the environment. For short trips, going by bike is a big plus. You can talk about champions bikes and an everyday bike. They are complementary.

Amber Cross

"Music buff. Unapologetic problem solver. Organizer. Social media maven. Web nerd. Incurable reader."

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