He has been General Director of the Tour for the past eight years, over which time he has followed the world’s greatest bicycle race each year in a red Škoda Superb. “It was in 2004, when I started working on managing the Tour and that’s when we signed our first contract with Skoda at a motor show in Geneva. So, I have only ever witnessed the Tour, during my time as General Director of the Tour that is, sitting in a Škoda ,” he explains in an interview with MF DNES, the largest Czech newspaper.
You may have noticed his car from television broadcasts, news reports and photographs. It’s the bright red Škoda Superb, with a tall man towering through the sunroof, keeping a close eye on the peloton or breakaway groups. Just like all of the riders, he also has to complete every stage of the race from start to finish, but in his specially adapted car. Even though he spends around six hours in it at a time, he remarked that he has never once started to fall asleep during the ride. “I love my Superb. It’s a fantastic, reliable car. My driver, Gilles Maignan, is 6’2″, the same height as me, and yet I can still sit comfortably behind him and stretch my legs out,” Prudhomme told MF DNES.
For many years he used to follow the Tour from the other side of the fence, as a reporter, bringing television viewers closer to the atmosphere of the race and conducting interviews with riders. He is a great lover of cycling and has been fascinated by it since his childhood. Although the 2014 Tour, which he is running, has changed beyond recognition since his days as a reporter, let alone since his childhood, some things still stay the same. “The Tour is much more than just a race,” Prudhomme pronounces. “It is based on three pillars, sport, landscape and people. It brings generations together and therein lies its strength.”
That is why, according to Christian Prudhomme, the Tour is followed by hundreds of millions of cycling fans via TV and lures hundreds of thousands out to line the route, which the organisers prepare three years in advance. “It used to be a real adventure with hugely long stages, with no help permitted from mechanics and no gears allowed. Today the Tour de France is the Formula 1 of cycling. The materials used for the bikes are tested in space and in wind tunnels and the riders are honed and trained to the point of perfection. Yet even today the Tour has not lost its soul nor its unpredictability,” Prudhomme emphasized at the end of his interview.
Text: Pavel Eichler