Ypres aiming to host a Tour de France stage in 2014
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ypres aiming to host a Tour de France stage in 2014

by Ben Atkins at 3:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Flanders town looking to commemorate the centenary of World War I after British start

ypresThe Flemish city of Ypres (Ieper) is aiming to host a stage of the Tour de France in 2014, according to Het Nieuwsblad. The ancient cloth-trading town was one of the epicentres of hostilities in World War I, and was the site of three major battles between the Allied forces and the invading Germans; a visit from the Tour would fall on the centenary of the start of the conflict.

With the Grand Depart of the race announced this week as taking place in Yorkshire, in the north of England, a visit to the Flemish town - which lies just a few kilometres over the border from France - could mark the race’s arrival on the European mainland.

"I have now, since the publication of the Tour start, been in contact with the course designer of the Tour," said the city’s Mayor-elect Yves Leterme, former Belgian prime minister, whose position is currently being performed by deputy Jan Durnez while he still serves as a minister of state. “But I have made an appointment with the Tour director and can say nothing about the dossier.

“I will leave the communication around the decision to them,” he added. “But Ieper is a prominent candidate to receive the Tour.”

Ypres was all-but destroyed in three diifferent battles, during what was then known as “The Great War”, as it occupied a key strategic point on the Western Front. The first saw the Allies capture the town from the invading Germans in late 1914, while the second battle in the first half of 1915 saw the Germans take the high ground to the east of the town, with poison gas used for the very first time in war.

The third battle of Ypres in 1917 is by far the most notorious however, as Allied armies attempted to take the Passchendaele Ridge. The long artillery bombardment destroyed the area's drainage system in one of the wettest summers on record, which transformed the landscape into a sea of mud.

Raging for more than three months, estimates of the cost of the battle vary between 200,000 and 400,000 casualties on either side, with many simply drowning in the mud.

A Tour stage finish in Ypres - which British soldiers referred to as ‘Wipers’ - could be a fitting part of the commemorations that will mark one hundred years since the start of one of the 20th century’s bloodiest conflicts.


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