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Leblanc receives ovation

Former Tour de France race director Jean-Marie Leblanc was in Paris yesterday afternoon for the presentation of the 2007 Tour de France, an event he presided over for 19 years. The 62 year-old Frenchman received a five-minute standing ovation form the 3000-plus people gathered at the Palais des Congrès.

Leblanc, from the middle of the audience, rose to say 'thank you' and to give the nod to Christian Prudhomme, the new Tour de France race director. Prudhomme, learning and following the experienced master in the 2006 Tour, was handed the tour from caring hands.

Before Leblanc started guiding the Tour from behind in his official car, his passion was up front, on the bike. Professional from 1967 to 1971, he made two appearances in France's grand tour. After racing, Leblanc continued to follow cycling as a journalist for L'Equipe for 17 years, which eventually led him to head the Tour de France in 1988.

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