Successful Paris-London furthers Entente Cordiale

Take 150 Frenchmen, add 150 Brits, and mix. A recipe for disaster? Au contraire at the Paris-London

Take 150 Frenchmen, add 150 Brits, and mix. A recipe for disaster? Au contraire at the Paris-London
It was smiles, pats on backs and handshakes all round on the cobbles outside Traitors' Gate at the Tower of London on Sunday afternoon. A 300-strong peloton, made up of 150 British riders and 150 French, had ridden 300 kilometres over two days, starting on Saturday morning in front of the Eiffel Tower. Paris-London, organised by the Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) - the company responsible for the Tour de France - and The Events Group as part of the centenary celebrations of the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain, was a great success. Weather-wise, the riders had it all: warm, sunny, if a little windy, on the Saturday in France, and cold, wet, with strong winds once over on the other side of the Channel. Spectator-wise, though, there was nothing to choose between the two sides of la Manche: people lined the roads through towns and villages, and not one complaint was heard from motorists who were stopped by police as part of the rolling road closure. In fact, if the horn tooting and waving were anything to go by, they enjoyed the spectacle of a huge, colourful peloton streaming by. Motorbike police offers from both countries worked together on both days to ensure safe passage for the riders, the majority of whom had been invited to ride having completed the Etape du Tour - a mass ride which takes place over the route of a stage of the Tour de France each year - in July. Besides them, though, were former French pro Laurent Jalabert, British national champion Nicole Cooke and current Crdit Agricole pro Eric Leblacher. Such quality riders, as well as a number of top amateurs, ensured that stages two (Mouy-Amiens) and three (Dover-Rochester) - run as a race - went off at an extremely tough pace. Frenchman Emmanuel Clerico was victorious on the second stage, while Patrice Malard took stage three. The first stage, out of Paris to Mouy, and the final stage, from Rochester Castle to London, were neutralised, which meant that instead of gasps to hold the wheel in front, a mixture of French and English banter filled the air as Etape du Tour times were compared. With London - along with Herning (Denmark), Lugano (Switzerland), Florence (Italy) and Rotterdam (Holland) - a candidate to host the start of the Tour de France in 2007, Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc admitted that the event gave British police an ideal opportunity to gain experience marshalling a major bike race. But Leblanc refused to be drawn on whether staging the event meant that London was the favourite for 2007. "The enthusiasm shown by the riders and those watching at the roadside shows that there is a real interest in bike racing in the UK," Leblanc told procycling at the end-of-race reception held in London's City Hall. "But that comes as no great surprise to me after seeing the big crowds who watched the Tour here in 1994, and that there were 1500 British participants in the Etape du Tour this year." At a dinner later on Sunday evening, Leblanc was officially presented with London's bid to host the Tour start. However, Leblanc assured procycling that a decision would not be made for 2007 until well after the announcement of the city chosen to host the 2012 Olympic Games is made in July next year, for which London and Paris are both candidates. Race-stage results (stages two and three): Mouy-Amiens: Emmanuel Clerico (Fra) Dover-Rochester Castle: Patrice Malard (Fra) Final overall classification: Men: French: Eric Leblacher British: Steven Home Women: French: Audrey Cleau British: Nicole Cooke
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