Australia welcomes Tour de France director
Australia welcomes Tour de France director

Director of the Tour de France Christian Prudhomme managed to put aside the doping dramas surrounding the sport to finally get back to spruiking cycling’s grandest race, swinging by Sydney to launch this year’s yellow jersey.

In his fourth visit to Australia, Prudhomme says he has been taken back by how popular cycling has become in recent years.

"I was impressed last time I came to Australia for the Tour Down Under to see how many people were on the roads," he said.

Prudhomme even proposed a tantilising idea for the Tour de France, even if in jest.

"You have one of the best teams in the world with Orica-GreenEdge, you have a winner of the Tour thanks to Cadel Evans. If in 20-30 years there is a plane to fly from Sydney to Paris in two hours, we will have to do something," he said with a wry smile.

Le Coq Sportif Oceania head Hilton Seskin was on hand to present Prudhomme with the yellow jersey designed in homage to the 1951 version, which marked the first year Le Coq Sportif joined forces with the Tour.

"The 100th edition race jersey features an even brighter yellow," Seskin said.

"It’s been given a collar and it’s packed with features celebrating the milestone, including a reflective description of the Tour de France which is representative of the finish at night."

Prudhomme, a former journalist, has been responsible for a real shift in the direction of the Tour since taking up his position in 2005.

In lieu of a professional cycling background, Prudhomme has surrounded himself with ex-riders who help him map out the 3,500km route around the country.

But Prudhomme insists it’s not a disadvantage, all that matters in his eyes is a deep devotion to the Tour and all it encompasses for France and cycling fans.

"My role is I’m an ambassador," he said.

"In the sport of cycling we are just the tenants.

"What is indispensible is to have the passion and that is what counts. In my role its impossible to perform it without the passion."

That passion has driven Prudhomme to present a most audacious Tour de France route with it’s 100th start beginning with a flat stage in Napolean Bonaparte’s birthplace of Corsica and a final stage that will partly take place inside the grounds of the Château de Versailles.

When deciding on locations of the stages, Prudhomme says he is as much mindful of the experience of riders and fans who follow along the Tour’s route as he is of those devoted viewers from 190 countries around the world.

Prudhomme promised Aussies more of the spectacular French scenery that has become synonymous with the race.

"There is the sporting aspect, but there is also what the people will see from the helicopter, what millions of viewers will see on their TV," he said.

"You needs riders, you need champions, but you need this outstanding scenery."

The 100th Tour was several years in the making but Prudhomme refused to give anything away on the plans for the race in years to come, plans of which are already in motion.

He simply assured Tour fans would not be let down.

"The Tour de France is not only a sporting event, but it is also culture," Prudhomme said.

"You have to do all you can do in every minute for people to love the tour."

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