How are Tour de France towns are picked? Incognito.
Jean-Louis Pagès, a bespectacled former geography professor, spends nearly half the year on the road scouting future Tour de France towns – incognito. He already has a folder on his BlackBerry for 2015 possibilities.
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Late this afternoon, the peloton will descend on the town from the north and zip by a massive steel factory in the last kilometer.Skip to next paragraph
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After passing the mayor’s office and the cathedral, they’ll cross the finish line on the banks of the Arroux river in front of thousands of residents and traveling fans.
$100,000 or more to host a stage finish
Hosting a stage of the Tour de France is not a cheap proposition. A typical fee to host a start is €45,000 ($57,000), according to organizers. For finishes, a more complicated venture, the fee is doubled.
And for a grand départ, the opening stage of the Tour, is even more. In 2007, London paid upwards of €1.5 million ($1.9 million) to host the start. The fees are partially to cover the ASO’s expenses – throughout the race they pay for employees and the racing teams, though the teams pay for gas.
Despite the costs and the damaging effect of doping scandals on the Tour's image, it’s clear that interest in hosting the 107-year-old race hasn’t waned.
This year alone, organizers received over 250 bids from potential hosts and there are 11 new towns, including Gueugnon, in the 20-stage, 2,263-mile race.
But Pagès also has a vital role to play on race day.
Each day he arrives at the arrival town around 5:30 a.m. to draw the finish line in chalk. By 11 a.m. his crew of 55 has finished installing bleachers, monitors, and other equipment at the finish.
Then he’s mentally moving forward, looking to the challenges he’ll face throughout the next few weeks.
“In my head I am already thinking about [Stage 17’s] finish up the Col du Tourmalet and then to Bordeaux,” he said. “I am the eyes and ears of the Tour in advance.”
2015 Tour de France
I have seen the future of the Tour de France and it is on a BlackBerry.
Sitting in the press center Thursday, Pagès thumbed his smartphone, going through how many years of the race he has planned in advance.
“2011 is finished, the route is done,” he said proudly, scrolling past a folder for 2015. “And I can’t tell you officially, but for 2017 we have some ideas.”
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