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Q&A: Prudhomme talks onboard cameras, Armstrong, and more

The Tour de France director talks to VeloNews about how to continue growing the sport of cycling

AL MUSSANAH, Oman (VN) — Tour de France Organizer ASO wants to continue pushing cycling globally, stream onboard cameras, and move on from Lance Armstrong. Broadcasting cycling’s biggest race around the world, said race director Christian Prudhomme, will help the goals.

VeloNews: How important are the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman for ASO and cycling?
Christian Prudhomme: The big difference is in February. Twenty years ago, there weren’t races in Qatar, Dubai, and Oman. You still have a few races in Spain and on the Côte d’Azur, but there are less. The Tour Méditerranéen is gone this year. The season in March, July and so on is the same, but in January and February, it’s changed.

VN: The UCI talks about globalization, but is it ASO who leads the way with races in Norway, Yorkshire, and the Middle East?
CP: The first thing is to have the Tour de France live in a country. I remember Cadel Evans explaining how he began cycling, he saw the race on TV in Northern Australia. We talk about globalization, but the first thing you need is to see the race on TV. That starts with the Tour de France, because you can see it everywhere, in 190 countries. You can build thanks to that. We planned to have the Grand Départ in England in 2017 or 2018, but once Bradley Wiggins won, we knew we had to do it immediately in 2014. I have no regret at all that we did it!

VN: What is your position on the teams beginning Velon?
CP: Where there’s good sense, it’s good for everybody. I think everybody agrees that we need to improve live coverage.

VN: Is Velon needed when it is the UCI’s responsibility to promote the sport and its teams?
CP: I don’t know, but the more we have people that want to improve live coverage, the better it is. We need to know what’s going on inside the sport. We need tracking to know riders’ positions, to hear the sound in the pack, to see the images live from onboard cameras. It’s impossible to improve that if people don’t work together. If Velon is a way for people to work together, then that’s good.

VN: Could Velon push the UCI or other organizations to improve the sport?
CP: Yes. We have to hear sounds from the peloton. Taylor Phinney talked about the shouting and the talking that goes on, but you don’t see that when you watch TV. I want to hear that, to feel the stress in the group. Just to see the sprint, like John Degenkolb’s win in the Tour of California, the pushing and shoving… Or when the riders are cutting through a city center and they fill every meter of the road, hopping on and off of sidewalks, we need to capture that.

VN: What is the next step for the Tour de France?
CP: I’d like to see a few stages where we have live onboard footage, live and with sound. You could have it before a cobblestone sector and in the sector itself. And you could have the last five kilometers of a sprint.

VN: How soon will it happen?
CP: I don’t know, but it’s very important for cycling.

VN: The UCI is planning changes to the calendar by 2017. Will you allow races like the Critérium du Dauphiné and Paris-Nice to be shortened?
CP: It’s a question of good sense. You don’t want to have two races from the same level at the same time, like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, or the Tour de Suisse and the Dauphiné. If you have one page for cycling in the newspaper, you don’t have space for it all. Of course, you have to take into consideration the economic realities of the country or the city. It’s not smart to have a race start on the weekday, it’s hard for people to come.

VN: Would you stand by the grand tours being shortened?
CP: If you look at the WorldTour calendar, and you only have the Tour Down Under and the GP Montreal and Quebec, then that means eight days out of Europe. You realize that it’s not enough. The first thing we heard was that the season will start in February, but the Tour Down Under runs on the last week of school holidays. If it’s after that period, then there’s no race. I know the UCI is thinking about all of this.

VN: What do you think of Lance Armstrong’s comments of having no winner in the Tour’s list for seven years is as if World War III happened?
CP: It’s good as it is today. It’s not blank, it’s ‘rayé’ or crossed out. It depends on the UCI, but on our list of winners, it’s [crossed out]. So it’s not as it is in World War I or II, there was somebody.

VN: Armstrong said that his lifetime suspension is not fair. What do you think?
CP: Ahh. It’s the past. We’ve been talking about the future of cycling as a whole. For about the progress we need to make, we don’t need to be thinking about the wars. It’s the past, and as we did two or three years ago, it’s good that we have it crossed out.