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Earlier reported by Der Spiegel, the news has now became official: Germany, the largest economy in the European Union and a country of over 80 million people, will once again have live coverage of the Tour de France on free to air television in 2015 and 2016.
ASO confirmed the news on Wednesday, saying that the company had inked a two year deal. This sees it return to screening the race three years after it withdrew, with doping scandals and the image of the sport being a major contributory factor then.
“Germany is a major country in the world of cycling,” said Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director recognising the many benefits of increasing the coverage of the sport in that country.
“I remember the wonderful popular success we met with in 2005 when the Tour de France last visited the country. Today, German cycling boasts two first-rate teams and a generation of consummate and talented riders, such as Marcel Kittel, André Greipel and Tony Martin. Indeed, these three riders have won 18 stages over the last four editions of Le Tour.
“Thanks to ARD’s channels, I am delighted that the German public will be able to follow the Tour de France on German public TV, unencrypted, daily and live the race for the next two years.”
Benefits already apparent:
The long-rumoured news is not only significant in terms of the increase in the number of viewers the Tour will have, but also because it could lead to a greater investment in the sport by sponsors and advertisers.
In fact, there has already been an upswing in backing of the sport by sponsors, likely in anticipation of ARD’s decision. This year Kittel’s Giant squad is co-sponsored by the German company Alpecin, and the team has also decided to take out a German licence.
The country’s Pro Continental team, Bora-Argon 18, has also benefited from backing of a new German company, and has seen its chances of getting a second successive wildcard invite boosted considerably by today’s news.
Indeed, it is difficult to imagine ASO not giving the team the slot it is chasing.
Unsurprisingly, the Bavarian team was enthusiastic about the news.
“ARD’s decision shows that German cycling has accomplished a successful turnaround over the past few years. A new generation of riders is blazing a trail for a cleaner sport,” said the team’s manager Ralph Denk.
“We have contributed our small part in this and have shown that in a few years top riders can be developed out of up-and-coming talent – and in a completely clean way.”
“ARD’s return will have a very special impact on our team. With Bora, a German company is once again the main name sponsor of a professional team after five years. Now, Bora, our German co-sponsors and our German riders will have a great opportunity to present themselves to a larger audience. Our goal is to take part in the 2015 Tour de France. And today we can say: now more than ever!”
The team took seventh place overall last year with Leopold Konig. While the Czech rider has moved to Team Sky, it is intent on clocking up more success. Its fastman Sam Bennett recently told CyclingTips that he hoped to be selected and to be able to mix it up with the top sprinters in the world at the race.
ASO’s decision in related to wildcard invitations is expected to come later this month.
Increased confidence after months of negotiations
Meanwhile the UCI has also applauded the news, saying that it is delighted at the development. It said that it played a part in ensuring ARD decided to cover the sport again.
“The UCI has met with ARD officials and the German Cycling Federation on several occasions over recent months to further underline our commitment to restoring the credibility of our sport,” said the governing body in a statement.
“We understand that ARD’s hesitation with cycling was related to the damaged reputation of our sport and we believe that today’s decision is partly due to the UCI’s reinvigorated approach to anti-doping, as highlighted by the new measures established in our Anti-Doping Rules in force since January 1, 2015.
“Whilst Eurosport has continuously screened the Tour in the past, ARD’s decision is great news for German cycling. Star riders like Marcel Kittel and Tony Martin, and the UCI WorldTour German owned Giant-Alpecin team will be given a fantastic opportunity to entertain the domestic audience in the country.
“Given the size of Germany’s population and its economy, today’s news will hopefully herald further growth for cycling in one of Europe’s major territories.”
The UCI added that it hoped this will develop into a long-lasting commitment on the part of German TV. It said that it would continued to work hard to improve the environment for any broadcaster or partner considering entering the sport.