It's less than 100 days until the start of the 2015 Tour de France and Utrecht continues to prepare for the July 4 Grand Départ. The Netherlands last hosted the Tour in 2010 when the race started in Rotterdam with a prologue. The same year a stage of the Giro d'Italia finished in Utrecht. Five years later and the Tour is back for a record sixth Grand Départ with a 14km individual time trial to start proceedings.
It is the second straight year of foreign Grand Départ's for the Tour, after last year's expedition to Yorkshire, and the mayor of Utrecht, Jan van Zanen, told inCycle what it means for his cycling rich city after a decade of trying to secure the grand tour.
"We've done this because we love the sport, we love the Tour de France. Holland, but also especially Utrecht in the very heart of the Netherlands is really a city with bike. When you are two or three years old, everybody learns to ride a bike," van Zanen explained.
The impending Grand Départ has seen a boost in cycling infrastructure in Utrecht to suit all level of skill and ability, demonstrating the non-sporting aspects of the successful bid.
"We are making the largest bike parking place for bikes. We have fast lanes, slow lanes, bike lanes where there is a red carpet so everybody, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, and even tourists like to ride a bike. All the facilities are aimed at getting everybody to bike," van Zanen.
For the Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme, the Netherlands is a perfect location to showcasing the power and flexibility of the bicycle.
"As soon as we can strengthen the bike and the champions of the Tour, we have to do it so its perfect to do that in the Netherlands," Prudhomme said. "The only country where you have more people watching the Tour on TV in July is the Netherlands.
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