The grand départ has been to Dublin and – sacre bleu – even Dover so perhaps a Stateside start isn’t as loopy as it seems?
The OLN plan – which has yet to be formally presented to the Société du Tour de France, although early vibes from the 100-year old organisation have been positive so far – is for a start in New York City and stages in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
Last year, New York City hosted a post-Tour de France one-day race attended by Lance Armstrong. It’s unlikely Armstrong would still be racing by 2008 but there are signs that a number of young American riders could one day take his place.
This is not the first time there has been talk of a US start for Le Tour. Back in the days of Greg LeMond, there was speculation that the Tour deFrance could be brought to America. Nothing came of the speculation, but Le Tour did subsequently don its water-wings and sailed to both Ireland and England.
However, the logistics of transplanting the small town that is the travelling Tour de France all the way across the Atlantic would be immense.
8000 people travel with Le Tour: riders, doctors, team support staff, barrier erectors, journalists, PR people, organisers, sponsors, and dancing girls. It’s relatively easy to fly the whippets across, not so easy to airfreight the start gates, cars, sponsormobiles, grandstands, village depart freebies and press rooms.
No doubt the US Postal Team – if it were still active in 2008 – would welcome a US start to Le Tour but few of the existing, mostly Euro-only sponsors, would gain much from the schlepp to North America.
However, the media exposure a US start to the Tour would generate – specifically big-bucks US media exposure – could be attractive to the Société du Tour de France, especially as it would attract mainstream global sponsors such as Coca Cola, Nike, and Mastercard. Coca Cola has been a sponsor in the recent past; a US start would bring the Atlanta sugared-water manufacturer back on board in a big way. Ditto for other global brands. A US start for Le Tour might be too hard for the Société du Tour de France to refuse?