Tour u-turn on Puy de Dome

Saturday, July 23, 2005 11.00pm
Tour boss-in-waiting Christian Prudhomme reveals that talks have taken place with a view to taking t

PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM

Tour de France director-in-waiting Christian Prudhomme hinted on Saturday that he may act on a mounting clamour for the reinstatement of the Puy de Dme climb to the Grande Boucle's rota of summit finishes.

In recent interviews with procycling magazine, both Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc and Prudhomme suggested that a return to the Puy de Dme would be improbable if not impossible due to logistical complications. The race last visited the conical mountain when the Dane Johnny Weltz ran out winner in 1988. Speaking to procycling as recently as the first week of the Tour, Weltz appealed to the Tour's organisers to set aside their concerns and to make the climb a regular fixture on future routes.

In what seemed like a U-turn, Prudhomme appeared receptive to Weltz's idea yesterday.

"The size of the race caravan shouldn't dictate where we take the race," Prudhomme commented. "If a stage finish in a monumental place is essential for the competition, the rest of the race has to adapt. The sporting backbone of the event needs to be preserved.

"We are going to start thinking about the Puy de Dme," Prudhomme continued. "I don't want us to have to kill our dreams. We spoke to representatives of the Puy de Dme region on Friday. They are obviously very interested and now we'll evaluate how feasible the idea is. But it's clearly not something that will happen next year."

As much as for its punishing gradient and beautiful setting in the heart of the Massif Central, the Puy de Dme is famous as the climb on which a spectator punched Eddy Merckx in the ribs in the 1975 Tour de France. Merckx bravely finished that particular stage in third place but a day later lost his yellow jersey to Bernard Thvenet. Merckx would never lead the Grande Boucle again, leading to some to suggest that Puy de Dme had exerted a form of voodoo over 'the Cannibal'.

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