Procycling - - Race Culture -

The first race of the WorldTour is part of a seem­ingly un­likely love tri­an­gle. Tour de France par­ent com­pany ASO is a part­ner of the Tour Down Un­der, sell­ing the TV rights to a world­wide au­di­ence, while the Tour de York­shire and the Tour Down Un­der have a re­cip­ro­cal agree­ment to pro­mote each other’s races. The Tour de France and the Tour de York­shire, mean­while, are also part­ners.

So it was that Tour de France di­rec­tor Chris­tian Prud­homme and Wel­come to York­shire chief ex­ec­u­tive and Tour de York­shire supremo Sir Gary Verity ar­rived mid­way through the Tour Down Un­der for what has be­come a reg­u­lar trip for the great friends.

“The Tour de York­shire is a joint ven­ture be­tween ASO and Wel­come to York­shire,” Prud­homme proudly re­it­er­ates, and, as if to cast it in stone, they per­form a the­atri­cal hand-shakingand-smil­ing rou­tine — a true en­tente cor­diale that has re­sulted in the two of them of­ten at­tend­ing fact-find­ing mis­sions like this one to Aus­tralia to­gether.

“The only dif­fi­culty for me be­ing here is that my English teacher hasn’t taught me some es­sen­tial words and phrases,” smiles Prud­homme, “like ‘G’day’ and... What was the other one, Gary?” “Fair dinkum,” Verity re­minds him. “Fair dinkum!” Prud­homme ex­plodes. “That’s hard for me.” The Tour Down Un­der is owned by Events South Aus­tralia, part of the South Aus­tralian Tourism Com­mis­sion; the Tour de York­shire is run by Wel­come to York­shire, the agency for­merly known as the York­shire Tourist Board. The Tour de France is a three-week-long ad­ver­tise­ment for the de­lights of France.

“Cy­cling is greater when cy­cling is not only cy­cling, when it’s more than just cy­cling,” says Prud­homme, cryp­ti­cally. “The best sta­dium in the world is still just a sta­dium: Wim­ble­don is the great­est tennis tour­na­ment in the world but you still only see tennis courts. You don’t see the coun­try; you don’t see the re­gion. And cy­cling is just perfect for that with the live cov­er­age on TV.

“But I would love to have the same or­gan­i­sa­tion [as TDU or TdY] in France, to have peo­ple who know tourism, and whose goal is to pro­mote the re­gions in France. Gary is more important than 99.9 per cent of the peo­ple who work in the tourism in­dus­try in France, and his power for pro­mot­ing York­shire…”

Verity takes his cue: “When the Tour de France Grand Dé­part came to York­shire peo­ple said, ‘I didn’t know York­shire was so beau­ti­ful, and I’ve lived here all my life’. And with the Tour de York­shire, we’ve seen that con­tinue. And that’s what you also have with the Tour Down Un­der here in South Aus­tralia: you have great rac­ing and also this stun­ning scenery.”

“You know what?” Prud­homme grins. “I say the words ‘Tour Down Un­der’ ev­ery day at the Tour de France. Why? Be­cause Gilles Maig­nan is my driver and each day we have two guests in the car with us. When I in­tro­duce them, I say: ‘This is Gilles Maig­nan, a for­mer pro who rode the Tour de France four times. He was twice French na­tional TT cham­pion and he is the only French win­ner of the Tour Down Un­der, the first WorldTour event of the sea­son.’”

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