Tour de France director on the first week, TV audiences, Sky domination
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was happy to be proven mistaken for his pre-race predictions as stage 9 put an end to the apparent domination of Team Sky.
"When I was questioned about the duel between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador before the Tour, I always answered: it'll be Sky versus the rest of the world, but I was wrong," Prudhomme told Cyclingnews in Bagnères-de-Bigorre. "It's Froome versus the rest of the world. Some people might have thought the race for GC was over after Froome's demonstration of force at Ax-3 Domaines. We've seen today that everything remains possible. It's not over."
"Frankly, I didn't imagine Froome to be left alone and Richie Porte to finish at 18 minutes, even though he probably gave up chasing at the end," the Frenchman continued. "Contrary to some comments, Team Sky is not something like US Postal. Like yesterday, Porte is their second rider on the finishing line, but in the teams' classification today, Sky is sixteenth at forty minutes! It says it all. I'm cautious about immediate analysis. I can see that the heat has extremely damaged the organism of many riders who had suffered cold, snow, rain and wind during the whole spring and get caught by opposite conditions since the beginning of the Tour de France."
From the organizer's point of view, he drew positive conclusions from the first third of the event. "In almost ten years at ASO, I never heard as many ‘thank you's' as in Corsica for bringing the Tour," Prudhomme summed up. "The race has been fantastically welcomed on the island and it has delivered the exceptional images that we expected. TV audiences are remarkable and beyond expectations worldwide. On France Televisions, it's more than 700 000 viewers more than last year daily during the first ten days. It's almost at the level of the end of the race last year and it usually goes up as we move towards the end of the event."
"I've enjoyed seeing the world's four best sprinters winning a stage each: Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish, André Greipel and Peter Sagan all deserved to score. It proves once again that the Tour de France is worth a classic every day and it's the case again with Dan Martin who is the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year. I have also enjoyed Nairo Quintana's attack in the col de Pailhères. Up to now, this climb had not impacted the race even though it's a very hard one, but yesterday, the favourites have used it to fight each other."
Prudhomme is looking forward to the next big things: Wednesday's scenic time trial from Avranches to Mont-Saint-Michel and the Mont Ventoux at the end of the second week. Questioned by a French reporter about Froome's look, he said: "The award for the most elegant rider doesn't exist at the Tour de France anymore but Froome probably wouldn't have been eligible. He's a kind of Paula Radcliffe [world record holder in the marathon] on a bike! The Brits love her, don't they? However, I find Froome very elegant in his way of speaking with a sweet voice and his eyes are very expressive."
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