Tour de France To Start With Time-Trial In 2015

tdf_stage21_2013_peloton
by Barnaby CHESTERMAN

PARIS, Nov 28, 2013 (AFP) – Tour de France organizers Amaury Sports
Organisation (ASO) revealed Thursday that the opening stage of the Tour de
France in 2015 will be an individual time-trial.

It had already been announced three weeks ago that the 2015 Tour would
begin in Utrecht in the Netherlands.

And Tour Director Christian Prudhomme announced at a press conference at
the residence of the Dutch ambassador to France, Ed Kronenburg, that a 13.7km
time-trial will kick things off on Saturday, July 4.

The second stage on Sunday, July 5 will also begin in Utrecht before the
Tour moves back to its homeland a day later.

It will be a record sixth time for a foreign country that the Netherlands
hosts the “Grand Depart” for the Tour, having first done so in 1954 when
Amsterdam was afforded the honor.

The last time the small and largely flat country was called upon to do so
was only three years ago when it fell to Rotterdam.

A total of nine Dutch towns and cities have hosted Tour stages over the
years.

Prudhomme explained that the first stage was a time-trial rather than a
prologue, which is often the preferred manner to begin a tour.

“After two editions which will have begun with a race to the line (this
year in Corsica and next year in Yorkshire, England) we are returning to the
traditional time-trial,” said Prudhomme, before explaining why it wasn’t a
prologue.

“International Cycling Union (UCI) rules stipulate that the maximum
distance for a prologue is 8km.”

Although this makes little difference to the riders, it does mean that they
risk being eliminated on that very first stage, however unlikely that may be.

A rider cannot be eliminated after the prologue, no matter how far behind
the winner he finishes, but for a normal time-trial, there is the standard
time-based cut-off point.

Given the distance being covered it also means the specialists against the
clock, such as current champion Briton Chris Froome, will get an early
opportunity to put some time into their rivals.

The launch of the first stage was attended by Jan Janssen, the first ever
Dutch rider to win the Tour, in 1968, and Joop Zoetemelk, the only other rider
from the Netherlands to finish top of the pile at the end of the grueling
three-week race, in 1980.

Prudhomme explained the decision to bring the start back to Holland was a
logical one.

“This year 85 percent of French people watched at least one stage of the
Tour de France,” he said.

“That number was surpassed by only one country, I imagine you’ve worked out
that it was the Netherlands, who had almost 86 percent. In fact 85.7 percent
of Dutch people watched at least one stage of the Tour.”

Aleid Wolfson, the mayor of Utrecht, said: “Cycling is a passion in the
Netherlands and especially in Utrecht where there are more bicycles than
people.”

The official mascot and logo for the Tour were also unveiled, the logo
being painted on one of the inner walls of the courtyard at the Dutch
residence in Paris by Dutch graffiti artist Marbl and designer Tom Bogman.

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