The Tour de France may start from Berlin in 2016 or 2017, according to the German capital’s secretary of state for sport.
“I’m going to meet the organisers of the Tour de France in Paris on Monday to discuss it,” Thomas Härtel told Tagesspiegel. “The organisers themselves have already come to Berlin to look around the city.”
Although plans are at an early stage, it is understood that a Berlin Grand Départ would feature a city-centre prologue and a road stage taking in the surrounding hinterland. The bid has received the backing of German cycling federation president Rudolf Scharping. “This is a great idea from Berlin, which we of course support,” he said.
One potential stumbling block to a Tour start in Berlin is German scepticism regarding cycling’s doping problems. German broadcasters ARD and ZDF are set to stop screening the race after this year, while three major German team sponsors (T-Mobile, Gersolsteiner and Milram) have also withdrawn from the sport in recent years.
“We know that the Tour de France has been much criticised in Germany,” Härtel said. “If the Tour begins in Berlin, it would mean that all efforts must be made against doping. It’s a common struggle.”
The Tour previously began from Berlin in 1987, as the race celebrated the 750th anniversary of the city’s foundation, which was at the time divided by the Berlin Wall.
Unable to use East German roads, that Grand Départ consisted of a prologue, a 106km circuit race and a team time trial over two days in West Berlin. After victory in the circuit race, Poland’s Lech Piasecki became the first Eastern Bloc rider to wear the yellow jersey. A lengthy transfer to Karlsruhe followed, and after finishes in Stuttgart and Pforzheim, the Tour finally entered France on stage 5.