The Tour de France will start in the Dutch city of Utrecht in 2015, race organiser ASO has confirmed. It will be the sixth time the sport's biggest race starts in the Netherlands.
“Utrecht has tried to get the Grand Départ for a long time now. They have been working hard to secure it. They deserve it. We are delighted with this Grand Départ,” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said on Dutch radio.
Rumours that Utrecht had secured the Grand Départ for 2015 began a few weeks ago but the city council denied it at the time. But in a secret council meeting they confirmed the €5 million of public funds for the start and guaranteed the other €5 million of corporate funds needed to organize the event.
The Tour de France will return to the Netherlands just five years after the start in Rotterdam. Utrecht was also in the running for the 2010 start but kept campaigning to secure the Grand Depart.
“Utrecht is a town that lives with the bike. It’s a student’s town, a young town that understands the importance of this event. We are delighted with the Grand Départ under the Dom church tower,” Prudhomme said.
“We have been trying to get the Grand Départ for twelve years,” Jeroen Wielaert of the organizing committee told Dutch radio NOS. “Christian Prudhomme was impressed by our perseverance.”
The Tour de France first started outside of France in Amsterdam in 1954. Utrecht will be the sixth time the Tour starts in the Netherlands. After Amsterdam the country hosted the Grand Départ in Scheveningen (1973), Leiden (1978), Den Bosch (1996) and Rotterdam (2010). That makes the Netherlands the record holder for foreign Tour de France Grand Départs.
The Giro d’Italia started in Amsterdam in 2010 and the Vuelta a España in Assen in 2009. The plans for a 2015 Vuelta start in the Netherlands have been cancelled in favour of the Tour de France.
The official presentation for the Utrecht Grand Depart will be in Paris on the 28th of November with former Tour de France winner Jan Janssen as the event’s ambassador.
The 2014 Tour de France starts in Yorkshire. 2015 will mark the first time the Tour starts outside of France for two consecutive years.