Hinault appears to rule out Tour de France starts outside Europe
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Hinault appears to rule out Tour de France starts outside Europe

by Shane Stokes at 8:35 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Says that a distance limitation of 1000 kilometres applies

Tour De FranceThe possibility that the Tour de France could at some point begin far away from Europe in Qatar, Tokyo or elsewhere has been dampened down by five time winner Bernard Hinault, who works for race organisers ASO. Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad, the former world champion poured cold water on the notion that riders could travel far away for the start of the race, then fly back to France.

“The maximum distance is 500 to 1000 kilometres,” he said. “Otherwise it is not practical to do.”

ASO has close links with Qatar due to its long-term running of a race there, and in 2010 also began working on a Tour of Doha. There is both enthusiasm and ample funding in the gulf countries, but Qatar’s distance of almost 5000 kilometres from Paris would mean that the riders would face a six hour flight.

Flying to a more southerly airport in France would reduce that transit time, but would still be outside Hinault’s stipulated distance. Transporting vehicles and equipment is an even bigger logistical task to consider.

The same limitation applies to Tokyo, China and to Montreal, which have all been floated as possible locations for the Grand Depart.

It is unsure if Hinault was speaking in a personal capacity or if his thoughts reflect those of ASO in general. However, speaking to this writer last year, race organiser Christian Prudhomme was also lukewarm about the idea. “We have had applications from Qatar, approaches from Tokyo,” he said, adding, “I am not sure if something will work out in relation to that.”

He said that the most important point was that other countries were interested in running big races, thus reflecting a spread in cycling’s influence and appeal.

The Tour de France has begun outside the country on many occasions, but never so far from mainland Europe. Britain hosted the race in 1974, 1994 and again in 2007, while the first three stages were held in Ireland in 1998.

It is rumoured that ASO are considering starting the 2013 race in Corsica. If so, it would be the first time the island ever hosted the event.

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