Tour de France to kick off in Dutch city of Utrecht
SAN FRANCISCO - Agence France-PresseThe 2015 Tour de France will start in the historic Dutch city of Utrecht, the city and race organisers ASO announced on Nov. 8.
“The 2015 Tour de France will start in Utrecht, the Tour’s organizers made known [on Nov. 8],” the central Dutch city said in a press release.
“More details for 2015 are to be revealed on November 28 in Paris and Utrecht,” the statement added.
It is the sixth time the Tour will start in the Netherlands, the last time being in 2010 when it kicked off in Europe’s largest port of Rotterdam.
“We have been angling for a long time to get the Tour to start in Utrecht, a city which historically has a close connection with cycling,” city spokesman Erik Suik told AFP.
“It’s a city that lives with bicycles, a student city that perfectly fits the Tour. I am very pleased,” Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme told the NOS national broadcaster.
The city is home to Dutch bank Rabobank, which sponsored cycling for 17 years until it announced in October last year it was severing ties with the sport as a result of a number of high-profile doping scandals.
More than half the population of Utrecht owns a bicycle, Suik said, while the city also features the oldest bicycle path -- established in 1885 -- in the free-wheeling Netherlands which now has some 35,000 kilometres of paths criss-crossing its flat landscape.
The Netherlands is one of the world’s biggest cycling countries with some 18 million bicycles, outnumbering people by some 1.2 million. “The 2015 start of the Tour in Utrecht is good for the Netherlands, good for the city and region and good for international sport,” Utrecht mayor Aleid Wolfsen said.
“We are looking forward to the arrival of the Grand Depart,” as the official start of the Tour is known, added Wolfsen.
The 2014 Tour de France is set to start in Leeds in the United Kingdom on July 5 next year.