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TOUR DE FRANCE

Tour de France to take place amid tight security

The Tour de France, the world's most famous bike race gets underway on Saturday with French authorities promising security will be their top priority with the country on heightened terror alert.

Tour de France to take place amid tight security
Photo: AFP

French authorities have vowed to ensure the Tour de France runs smoothly in the face of an increased terror threat.

The three-week race, which kicks off on Saturday in the Netherlands, comes just a week after a man beheaded his boss and tried to blow up a gas plant in southeastern France and six months after Islamist militants killed 17 people in attacks in and around Paris.     
 
“In addition to road safety and public order, the terrorist risk is obviously not ignored. In the current contest it will encourage us to take even greater caution,” said Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman of the French interior ministry.
 
About 20,000 police officials and firefighters are scheduled to protect the event in keeping with previous years, but checkpoints will be further strengthened, he said.
 
“Vigilance will be heightened on the course to identify suspicious behaviour,” Brandet told the news agency, due to the “very elevated threat of terrorism.”
 
The Tour de France starts in the Dutch university town of Utrecht and ends in Paris on July 26.
 
The annual sporting event is as much a showcase for cycling as it for France. 
 
Cyclists roll over 3,500 kilometres of paved road, plains and rugged terrain in the race to the finish.

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SPORT

Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.

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