Christian Prudhomme (Saint-Omer, France, 60 years old) is a television journalist, but since 2007 he has been on the other side of the cameras as director of the Tour de France. “Although my job is that of a reporter, running the race is a mission,” he says. In Bilbao, where he spent the weekend, he presented the 2023 exit, “which the Basques have insistently requested,” he says.
Question. How is the Health Tour in the middle of the pandemic?
Answer. The health of the Tour is good, the same as always. The impact of the race has been the same as in other years and we are at the top, at the top. It is true that it has not been able to be followed so closely by fans on the roadside, but the television audiences have been satisfactory, because the people were at home. Yes it has affected cycling in general because many races were suspended. The base of cycling was damaged.
P. Have they lost financial support after a year of crisis?
R. No, the sponsors are still there. It is true that we have had to make an effort because many of the races we organize have not been able to take place and more money has been spent in preparing the mandatory protocols for the pandemic.
P. Did you ever think at any time last year that the Tour could not be held?
R. Not really. The worst moment we experienced was in spring, because we did not know when it could be done, but we were moving forward in coordination with the authorities. We hold the pull well.
P. Will they follow the same sanitary protocols this year?
R. We will adapt them. Last year, if there were two positives on the same team, all riders from that team had to retire. It affected 30 members of the group. That was the biggest fear we had, but we managed to establish the measures to avoid it, to protect the cyclists and their environment. That worked for us. Now, the advancement of vaccination will make things easier.
P. Will there be some kind of privilege to vaccinate cyclists?
R. Obviously not.
P. Do you expect to return to normal in 2022?
R. We hope, yes. That there are people in the gutters and in the mountains is essential. The proximity of the public gives a different dimension to the Tour, or the Champions League. That there are young people, old people, people of any profession or age, who come to see the cycling champions, who are also waiting to be able to race among the people. We dream of the moment when we can say: Out with masks! That the cyclists see the smile of the people.
P. The Tour has changed a lot since it started, but the director’s job?
R. Too. The only common characteristic among directors is that we have all been journalists. I worked in radio and television, but I am not doing like Henri Desgrange or Jacques Goddet, who wrote their chronicles or columns at the end of the stages, it would no longer be possible. Now 184 cyclists run and there are more than 2,000 accredited journalists. When Jean Marie Leblanc hired me to succeed him, I did not have the impression that I was leaving journalism, but I have realized that what I do now is like a mission, it is not a job. It has become my life.
P. Where were you most surprised by the impact of the Tour?
R. In Yorkshire, in 2014. In the Basque Country it is more normal to find the fervor of the people, but there were two million people on the street. We did not expect that, it was extraordinary, incredible. There are two audiences that are the best, the one from Flanders and the Basque, who understand cycling, know the riders, and cheer. When we got to Yorkshire we saw that it was the same there too. It is a great challenge for the Basque Country to do better and exceed those figures.