Talking to Cyclingnews after the decisive Grenoble time trial, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme enjoyed the success of the 2011 edition of the Grande Boucle.
“We’ve had three tremendously rich weeks of emotions, joys, tears, passion and enthusiasm,” Prudhomme surmised. “We also have a winner who is a great rider from March to October. Cadel Evans has been the world champion and the winner of the Flèche Wallonne. He has honoured this Tour de France from start to finish. He was just behind Philippe Gilbert on stage 1 at the Mont des Alouettes. For months, I repeated that the Mûr-de-Bretagne [stage 4] was made for the leaders. I didn’t imagine that it would crown the eventual winner of the Tour de France. I’m delighted for Cadel. This time he hasn’t given up his chance. This Tour is a logical reward for his long and beautiful career.”
As ASO doesn’t only organise the Tour de France, Prudhomme didn’t hide his preference for the duellist who chose to ride the Critérium du Dauphiné. The Schleck brothers opted for the Tour de Suisse. “We purposely offered the riders the same time trial course at the Dauphiné and the Tour de France”, Prudhomme said. “It was probably necessary to do the Dauphiné to win the Tour this year.”
“Evans’ victory is also a great symbol,” Prudhomme continued. “It’s emblematic of the globalization of cycling. He’s the first winner from the Southern Hemisphere. He comes from mountain-biking. This year, he has won Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie. He came second at the Dauphiné. Cycling cannot simply be a race in July. The Tour de France must be one episode in the middle of a saga.”
Since Andy Schleck’s epic ride on stage 17 to the Galibier, there has been much praise for the course designed by Prudhomme. “People say that I’m a genius but I’m not a genius!” he said. “The course depends on what the champions do with it. Andy Schleck has made the Galibier exceptional. In 2007, the Rasmussen affair had stolen the first of our four mythical summit finishes at the Col d’Aubisque. In 2009, there was a huge crowd but no race on the Mont Ventoux. In 2010, we had a high-level duel in the fog of the Tourmalet but this year, the riders were brilliant on the Galibier in the middle of wonderful landscapes. They’ve raced with panache. They are worthy successors of the great champions from the past.”
The big mountain stages have been contested at a much slower pace this time than by the likes of Marco Pantani and Lance Armstrong in the past, which is seen by many as evidence of a decrease in doping practices. “I don’t want to draw conclusions too quickly,” Prudhomme said cautiously. “It’s a fact that also depends on the length of the stages. But the indications we had from Luz Ardiden and Plateau de Beille have been confirmed at l’Alpe d’Huez, and that was a very short stage.”
As usual, Prudhomme didn’t reveal any secrets about the route of the 2012 Tour de France, which is due to start from Liège in Belgium, although he did note that “it will be an edition of surprises.”
The launch is scheduled for October 18 in Paris. After two editions celebrating the centenary of the race’s entry into the high mountains (2010 in the Pyrenees and 2011 in the Alps), and with the one hundredth edition of the Grande Boucle to follow in 2013, the 2012 Tour is rumoured to be built around climbs of medium difficulty.
“Let’s go where the interest of the sport will guide us,” Prudhomme said.