The managers of the Tour de France arrived in Ajaccio, the capital city of Corsica Wednesday to kick off three days of meetings to explore the possibility of starting the race on the autonomous French Island in 2013.
“This is the first step of a process to see if the Tour de France can be successfully held on Corsica,” said Tour director, Christian Prudhomme.
During a press conference at the Corsican Assembly, Prudhomme said the meetings mark the first of “several trips” that will be necessary to rate the island’s ability to host the 2013 Grand Départ.
Prudhomme added that there are currently a dozen cities vying to host the start of what will be the 100th edition of the French national tour.
Prudhomme is accompanied on the trip by competition director Jean-François Pescheux and site director Jean-Louis Pagès. The three met with the president of the Corsican Assembly, Camille de Rocca Serra, and regional executive Angelo Santini.
“We to organize the greenest, the purest and cleanest start of any Tour, said de Rocca Serra.
Santini said the island’s administration is willing “to do everything it takes so that Corsica will not miss this historic opportunity.”
The Tour traditionally starts on French territory every other year, interspersed with international settings for opening stages. The 2010 Tour, for example, will start in Rotterdam in Holland.
The 2013 Tour is likely to start in France. Corsica, the birthplace of the Emperor Napoleon, is one of France’s 26 regions, but has the unique status of being a collectivité territoriale, which grants the island Assembly greater autonomy than other regional governments.
The three Tour officials will spend the next three days inspecting roads and facilities around Corsica and meeting with local and regional officials.
“This is very preliminary,” said Prudhomme. “We are in the early stages of this process and it will be some time before a final decision is made.”
Tour organizers have a wealth of applications, both for the 2013 Tour and other editions of the race. Prudhomme said more than 250 communities have applications under review to act as host cities for the Tour. While most are from cities seeking to host a stage start or finish, Prudhomme said that applicants for the Grand Départ undergo greater scrutiny.
The Tour is generally considered to be the third largest sporting event in the world, now broadcast in 186 countries and trailing only the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in total viewership, said Prudhomme. Of the three, the Tour is the only one held on an annual basis.