Christian Prudhomme: “The Tour de France must speak to everyone”

Christian Prudhomme loves the Tour and never misses the opportunity to proclaim his love. On the sidelines of the presentation of the 2023 edition, he agreed to tell the details of his “production” driven by this desire to keep one foot in the history of cycling by returning to mythical places, but trying to create future monuments as has been the case with the Planche des Belles Filles for ten years.
It is this immense puzzle that every year becomes the great event of the summer, made up of historical symbols and winks but where the priority is always the sporting challenge.

“How did you develop this Tour 2023?
We are still working on three consecutive editions of the Tour de France, so the Tour structure is designed before the previous Tour. We can eventually change two or three things in the last few moments, but only marginally. The most important thing is the location of the Grand Départ, when you leave from Bilbao you don’t have the same Tour card as when you leave from Copenhagen or Brest.
We don’t even have the same distance to reach the mountain ranges. It’s simple, when we have fixed the place of departure, we know where we will go but also where we certainly will not go. We can be blamed for not going to such a place in 2023, but I know we’ll be there in two years. The Tour builds over time, we don’t ask ourselves: “Hey, what are we doing next year?” The proof is that already today we see people talking about the Grand Départ of 2027.

Was Bilbao in the newspapers for a long time?
This is the second major departure from Spain, just over thirty years after San Sebastian in 1992, already in the Basque Country. The most surprising thing is to have seen the insistence of the Basque authorities to ask us to go home. Since then, they have sent us a letter every year asking them to apply, and as early as July 1992 during the Tour after the San Sebastian departure they had already written to Jean-Marie Leblanc to tell him that they wanted a Great Start again.

“We never trace a path to favor a runner. But on the other hand, I confirm that in recent years the Tour has been more done for boxers because we have an exceptional generation of this type of runner. “

This start so close to the Pyrenees will not forget them this time, unlike 1992.
I remember in 1992 a regional newspaper headlined “Desgranges, wake up, they are crazy! “, Because there was only one passage in the Pyrenees planned, that of Marie Blanque. This time there will be no reason to complain, Marie-Blanque will always be there preceded by Soudet and the next day we will go to Cambasque with a perhaps less harsh finish than some but with Aspin and Tourmalet earlier. So we can expect anything. Above all, we know that a formidable boxer in great shape will be able to express himself.

Like Julian Alaphilippe?
(laughs). Yes, it can be at stake.

Are you sometimes influenced by the desire to design a more specific course for a runner, such as the Giro which offers 70 kilometers of time trial to lure Remco Evenepoel?
We never plot a path to favor a runner. But on the other hand, I confirm that in recent years the Tour has been more done for boxers because we have an exceptional generation of this type of runner. But it is also because today in our zapping society we can no longer have four consecutive stages won by the same driver in the sprint that we are looking for variety. There will be eight chances for sprinters to shine in 2023, but they will be spread over three weeks, with four all the same in the first nine days.

How do you explain that the place of sprinters is less and less preponderant?
Because cycling has changed since 2019 with the emergence of a new generation that runs differently, to our greatest happiness, attacking from afar such as Pogacar, Van Aert, Alaphilippe, Van der Poel and now Evenepoel. The Tour de France last July was amazing also thanks to this way of racing, to see Pogacar fighting at all times to try to overthrow Vingegaard.

You mention the generosity that the Tour de France can afford, is that why you closed with the duality between the Pyrenees and the Alps that most often marked the route?
Everything starts from the geography of France. The Alps and the Pyrenees are essential and will remain so. On the other hand, and I will use an expression of Jean-Marie (Leblanc), there are other “sporty convincing” terrains, in the Massif Central, in the Jura, in the Vosges, in the Morvan. And it’s not because there aren’t any mountains west of a diagonal between the Basque Country and Alsace that we won’t be looking for a rating in the Armorican Massif.
Above all there is the desire to maintain the strength of the monuments of the Tour, with arrivals in Galibier, Tourmalet, Isoard and next year at the puy de Dôme and at the same time also in 2023 at the Col de la Lose and the Grand Colombier after having promoted for ten years the Planche des Belles Filles. We don’t want anything to be locked up because we have to offer places of expression almost everywhere to this new generation, and not just in the Alps or the Pyrenees.

This Tour 2023 will be cataloged as a Tour for climbers with a small part of time trials.
The Tour is always made for climbers. But the period has changed, we no longer have, as in the days of Bahamontès and Anquetil, pure climbers and pure riders who made up for the delay on their favorite terrain. We no longer have this difference between real specialists, although sometimes I would like to find it.

The women’s Tour de France for its first edition, this year, had paved the way for the Vosges which will close the men’s one in 2023, the day before arrival in Paris.
The question with Marion Rousse was not just to create a women’s Tour de France, but to create a permanent event. To show it well, we installed it in the wake of a perennial event called Tour, which is why today in my mind there is the Tour in its male version and its female version.
So if this year we went to the Vosges with the women’s Tour it is because the Ballon d’Alsace was in 1905 the first emblematic peak in the history of the Tour and if in 2023 they will go to the Pyrenees it is also because it is there that the Tour reinvented itself in the 1910 for its 8th edition, approaching a large massif for the first time.

Is the Tour de France complicated to design?
No, it’s exciting because the Tour should speak to everyone. It is the only sporting event that also caters to people who are not interested in sport. “

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