By VeloNews Interactive wire services, copyright AFP2001
Tour de France chief Jean-Marie Leblanc on Sunday scotched American hopes of a race stage being held in the United States, saying the Tour had more pressing priorities.
Speaking prior to the 14th stage of this year’s 88th Tour, Leblanc told AFP: “It’s a project that’s been talked about for about 10 years, though not recently, so it’s always been lingering in the background.
“But I think that now is not the perfect time. Since we’re in the period following the Festina (doping) affair (1998) our aim is to re-establish the sporting credibility of the Tour and to continue our battle against doping.”
On Saturday Nike chief Phil Knight, visiting the Tour for the first time after having sponsored the US Postal team of race leader Lance Armstrong for the past five years, said his aim was to take the Tour stateside.
” … we hope that we’ll have a stage of the Tour de France in the United States within the next couple of years,” said Knight, who underlined the impact of Armstrong’s successive wins on the Tour’s image in America.
But Leblanc added that the Tour, for the moment, would not be heading for New York where a logistical nightmare, and the pressure on riders, would mean all sorts of implications.
“That’s our priority right now more than increasing the workload for the riders with time differences after transfers to New York – there’s all sorts of implications.
“It’s a good idea which one day could come to fruition but right at this moment it seems a bit premature,” he said.