PARIS, July 28, 2014 (AFP) – After Kazakhstan won the Tour de France, the
Central Asian state now wants to host the Tour, a top official said Monday.
Rejoicing after Vincenzo Nibali of the government-backed Astana team
clinched victory on Sunday, Kairat Kelimbetov, president of Kazakh Cycling,
told AFP his country wants to host the start of the race like England did this
Kelimbetov, who is also head of Kazakhstan’s central bank, said the idea
may seem “a joke” now but his oil-rich country is serious and is negotiating
for a chance before 2020.
The northern English county of Yorkshire staged the first three days of
this year’s Tour de France bringing millions onto the streets to watch.
“It’s like a joke now, but this Yorkshire experience is very interesting
for us,” said Kelimbetov.
“The Tour de France has become global and cycling has become global and
everyone was absolutely excited when five million people came onto the
streets” in England.
“The idea is to one day bring it to Kazakhstan,” he said.
“It took three years for Yorkshire to be prepared and I think we could
deliver it also.”
It is some 4,800 kilometres (3,000 miles) from Astana, capital of the
world’s biggest landlocked country, to Paris. But Kelimbetov said the western
tip of Kazakhstan is part of Europe “so why not?”
Kazakhstan will host the world junior cycling championships next year. The
cycling chief said he had asked the UCI, cycling’s governing body, about
staging the main world cycling and road racing championships after 2018.
The country’s former capital Almaty is also challenging Oslo and Beijing
for the 2022 Winter Olympics.