Prudhomme: “We dream of an end to the tour like in 1989”

Christian Prudhomme (Paris, 63 years old). Director of the Tour de France since 2007. Before that, he was Jean-Marie Leblanc’s deputy for three seasons. In addition to his position at the forefront of one of the most important sporting events in the world, He is also a journalist, although his work was different for decades. Fan confessed Luis Ocana, one of his childhood references, went to Burgos for the General Assembly of the International Association of Cycle Race Organizers (AIOCC). After the welcome, (“Bonjour, ça, va?“), sits at AS for fifteen minutes in the library of the Monastery of San Agustín.

-He The Tour de France 2024 saw the light of day last October. Is it one of the strangest editions under your watch? The Olympics are changing the schedule… and it won’t end in Paris for the first time.

We had known for a long time that the tour couldn’t end in the capital. For security reasons, the various levels and the gendarmerie (French police) would not allow such proximity to the Olympic event. I see the mayor of Nice several times a year because we organize Paris-Nice, and in December 2018 I said to him: “And if we can’t finish in Paris, what would you imagine doing here?” And he thought it was wonderful . In Spain, Italy… there are mountains everywhere. This is not the case in France, this is not possible near Paris and Nice is on the beach and near the mountains. Landing in a place like this is perhaps one of the tour directors’ dreams. A completely different tour? Well, I do not know. Since 1903, that is, forever, it has been completed in Paris. Not this time. And we had never left Italy, and in 2024 we will leave Florence. It is clear that it will be something different.

-He The fourth day is dedicated to the ascent of Galibier. They had never climbed a pass of this height so quickly. Could there soon be a key frontrunner for the overall standings?

If you enter France via Italy you have to go over the Alps or via Nice and Monaco, but we already drove into this area at the end of the race and don’t usually pass the same place twice. The Galibier stage is of course a mountain day and reaches 2,642 meters but is not extreme, the previous climbs are more bearable. Only 48 hours before the end of the tour we have to climb to the highest possible point in France, La Bonnette, at 2,802 meters, which is why we wanted a clear climb in the beginning that would be an eye-catcher. It is possible that on this fourth day the important men of the general classification will stand side by side, but I expect something similar to the opening stage in Bilbao at the last Tour, where the Yates brothers played for victory.

-Are you worried that the race will be stalled for much of the race due to the toughness of the last few days?

I do not believe that. We are fortunate to have some exceptional runners who attack when expected, but also when no one imagines. Pogacar attacked on the Champs-Élysées. He knows he won’t change the standings, but he’s proving it. We had fifteen days of spectacular battles between Pogacar and Vingegaard, and Evenepoel said this year that he will make his debut in the race. What he did in La Vuelta was great, even though he didn’t give up despite everything. What worried me a little were the rumors of a merger between Jumbo and Soudal, with Jonas and Remco on the same team. There will be four great champions (Pogacar, Vingegaard, Roglic and Evenepoel) on four different teams, which can make for a really good Tour de France.

Prudhomme, President of the AIOCC, in Burgos (Ricardo Ordóñez)
Prudhomme, President of the AIOCC, in Burgos (Ricardo Ordóñez)

-What was the decision? introduce unpaved roads in the ninth phase?

We’ve had this idea in our heads for almost ten years. We’ve included some stages in a 2016 Paris-Nice stage where Arnaud Démare won. Yannick Talabardon and Thierry Gouveneu have been looking for places to hold such a stage for some time. Sometimes it was dangerous because of the descents and they looked at up to fifty different options. There was already a stage with elements of this type at the 2022 Tour de France Femmes and it went well. It’s another animation element. I return to the geographical differences between Spain and France, which are also one of the reasons that lead us to do this. For this reason we have to look for different things, otherwise the sprint would consist of six consecutive stages. I hope we have a very pleasant day.

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-I talked about the runners. Can the theoretical lineup of participants in the 2024 Tour be improved with such strong riders and in different teams?

Watching cycling over the last four or five years, I go back to my childhood, to the 70s, when we saw the champions in March and they were still fighting in October. I’m the director of the Tour de France, but it’s fantastic to watch the champions compete all season long. I think it will be an exciting season. I think of the World Cup in Glasgow, how much criticism it received in the days before and the spectacular victory that Van der Poel achieved afterwards. If you’re Spanish, you want a Spaniard to win the Tour. If you are French, for a Frenchman, above all we want to see a great race. When there are no French people present, the Tour audience also sits in front of the TV and supports them with names of riders we can’t pronounce in French, like Pogacar or Vingegaard, and people are equally fascinated by their fight.

-The last time the Tour ended with a time trial was with Lemond and Fignon’s historic result, where the first won by eight seconds. Can you imagine repeating such a scenario?

Of course we dream about it. After that, we don’t know what the reality will be. In the recent past we have seen that a time trial at the end of the Tour can change everything, like in Belles Filles in 2020 with Pogacar and Roglic. It will be a tough time trial over around thirty kilometers with 700 meters of altitude. It’s a day for champions. For Tour de France champions. Everything is being done to ensure there is one last fight. We suggest. Sometimes the whiteboard comes true. Others, no.

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-And Spanish cycling? Do you see runners from our country fighting for victory in the Tour?

I have always read in Spanish cycling the fear that there will be no more Spaniards after the retirement of Alberto Contador. Now they have the opportunity to have exceptional young people. If there are talents like Juan Ayuso, capable of being on the podium of a major tour with less than 20 years old, or Carlos Rodríguez… then for me these young people are part of the movement in current cycling. I hope that these drivers will soon join Evenepoel, Vingegaard, Pogacar and Roglic. Maybe at some point to replace Roglic, who is still very strong but inevitably aging. I would like to say that as a Frenchman I envy you the young talents you have in Spain.

-The tour takes place abroad in three consecutive editions. Copenhagen 2022, Bilbao 2023 and Florence 2024. In 2025 he returns to France, to Lille.

I am often criticized for doing the Grand Départ abroad. I do it because it means giving more visibility to the Tour de France, the most important race in the world. And there is also a request that I even ask for when we go abroad and drive through small French towns. The tour is an event that highlights regions, cities, heritage and pride. And this pride is essential in big cities, but also in small towns. This year’s Vuelta will leave Lisbon. You recently left the Netherlands. We shouldn’t prohibit ourselves from going abroad. On the contrary, it is a challenge to shine.

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