By Jean-François Quénet
Vittel will replace Aquarel as the official water sponsor of the Tour de France, 40 years after the start of the race was held in the spa town in the Vosges region of eastern France. The announcement was made by ASO director Christian Prudhomme in Paris during the congress of the union of French sports journalists (UJSF).
In 1968, Vittel was chosen as a symbolic starting point because of its famous water. One year after the death of Tom Simpson on the Mont Ventoux, the race was nicknamed 'Le Tour de la santé' (the Tour of the health), and was the first one eventual race director Jean-Marie Leblanc took part in.
While it may be a change of brand, the sponsor essentially remains the same since Vittel is also a part of Nestlé Waters. The same company supplied the Tour de France with Perrier from 1923 to 1984 and with Aquarel from 2001 to 2007. "We renew our confidence in the organisers of the Tour de France for their courage and their determination. They are serious in the difficult fight they conduct for a clean Tour de France," said Hubert Genieys, vice-president of Nestlé Waters. "We still believe strongly in the power of the event and the faithful crowd makes our investment worth it."
This is the first sponsorship deal announced by Prudhomme since taking over the reigns from Leblanc as race director. "It's been exactly five years since Jean-Marie approached me for the job," he told his former colleagues from the union he used to be a member of. "Before that day, I never imagined to quit the job of my life, which is journalism. Only because the director of the Tour de France has always been a journalist, I could fit into the job."
Despite all the troubles, the former French Television commentator apparently does not regret his move.