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TOUR DE FRANCE

‘The threat of terrorism is real’: Security set to be tight at this year’s Tour de France

More than 30,000 security agents will be deployed for the Tour de France, organisers said after the head of world cycling cited threats of violence and called for a safe environment for British rider Chris Froome.

'The threat of terrorism is real': Security set to be tight at this year's Tour de France
File photo: AFP
The world's biggest cycling race starts on Saturday, just days after four-time champion Froome was cleared of doping suspicions by the International Cycling Union (UCI), headed by David Lappartient.
   
In a post on his Twitter account, Lappartient denounced calls for 'violence' during the three-week event while the French government said that it would deploy all means necessary to guarantee security.
   
“I have heard calls, sometimes completely irrational, to violence on the Tour de France,” said Lappartient.
   
“I cannot accept that and I call on all spectators to protect all the athletes and to respect the judicial decision so that Chris Froome can compete in a safe and serene environment like all other athletes.”
 
Photo: AFP
   
Tour de France security chief Pierre-Yves Thouault told AFP that he shared Lappartient's concerns but was ready to unleash a huge security operation to police the 10 to 12 million fans expected to turn up to watch the race this year.
   
“There will be 23,000 police and 6,000 firemen,” Thouault said, adding that several thousand private security agents would also be deployed.
   
“We are concerned with mountain top finishes.
   
“But we will not be focusing more on one team than on any other,” he said, mentioning one notorious mountain stretch of the three-week Tour.
   
“The top section of the Alpe d'Huez will have more than 3.5km of railing on either side,” he said of the climb notorious for attracting huge unruly crowds where punches have been thrown, and urine splashed on competitors including Froome.
   
“We'll have several hundred officers on that hill, we know how it can be,” he said, stressing that communications between security officers was the key to safety alongside multilingual signs.
 
Keep calm
   
Meanwhile France's interior ministry said that the threat from terrorism was real during the Tour.
   
“It is the biggest single sporting event in France,” ministry spokesman Frederic de Lanouvelle said.
   
“The threat of terrorism is real during the entire Tour as it is throughout the country for the rest of the year.
   
“We will deploy all means necessary to ensure the full security for the event.”
 
Photo: AFP
   
Kenyan-born Froome, 33, is a favourite to win his fifth Tour de France after he was cleared to ride following the conclusion of a probe into an abnormal test sample during the Vuelta a Espana last year. 
   
He recorded an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for salbutamol, an asthma medication, meaning he exceeded the allowed dose of a permitted substance.
   
“I feel the need to say to cycling lovers, to lovers of the Tour de France, that the decision that was taken (to drop the case against Froome) was taken on the basis of reports from experts which led the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to consider that no violation of anti-doping rules had taken place,” Lappartient said. 
   
“And from this point on, that decision must be respected.”
 
Opposition to Froome had been building in France ahead of the Tour, with five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault labelling him a cheat and organisers barring him from riding before being forced to relent earlier this week and lifting the ban.
   
But Froome said Wednesday he had little to fear from the French public.
   
“I just raced the Giro in May with the salbutamol thing hanging over me and nothing happened there,” he said.
   
“My advice to anyone who doesn't like Chris Froome or doesn't like Sky is to come and watch the race with some other shirt, of someone you do like, and support the Tour in that way.”
   
Froome is out to emulate five-time winners Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain when he competes for a fifth win in the three-week Tour.
   
A win would also make Froome the first man to win a Giro-Tour de France double in the same season for twenty years.
 
By AFP's Damian MCCALL

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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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