NICE, France (Reuters) - Britain’s growing cycling culture has helped to globalize the sport while keeping it close to its European roots, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said.
“Globalization is necessary but we need to respect the roots of cycling,” Prudhomme told Reuters in an interview after the fifth stage of the Paris-Nice race.
“If cycling has been resistant to scandals it’s because it has deep roots in some countries.”
Globalization could be achieved through the riders, not just by spreading races all over the world, he said.
“When (Australian) Cadel Evans wins the Tour, images travel all over the world. The Tour has helped globalize cycling through its champions.”
Road cycling took the spotlight in Britain after the Tour started from London in 2007 and Bradley Wiggins’s Tour triumph last year - 10 days before he also won the London Olympic time trial - had increased interest, Prudhomme said.
“When you see Bradley Wiggins win, he is the first Briton to win the Tour, he has an Australian father, and the rider who is second overall (Chris Froome) was born in Kenya and lives in South Africa - it epitomizes Commonwealth,” said Prudhomme on Friday.
“But yet you’re still right next to Paris, to Belgium.”
The English-speaking world, at one time regarded as a threat to cycling with the now-disgraced Lance Armstrong once being rumored to take over as Tour de France owner, was now cycling’s great ally, according to Prudhomme.
“When I went to Yorkshire (this year) to announce that the Tour 2014 would start from Yorkshire, I told them: ‘You’re Belgians who speak English’,” he said.
”I’d also like to thank the people who decided to send Wiggins on to the stage with the yellow jersey on his back at the Olympic opening ceremony. We were so proud that day.
“When you have a Briton winning the Tour you’re reaching out to everyone who speaks English in the world and that’s a few potential fans.”
Editing by Clare Fallon