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by Shane Stokes
January 5, 2015
German cycling has received a significant boost with reports that that national television station ARD has decided to once again cover the Tour de France.
It and fellow station ZDF backed off on their coverage following numerous doping scandals and completely exited from screening the race in 2012. However the relative lack of scandals since then plus, presumably, the improving fortunes of German riders, have prompted it to reconsider.
Spiegel reports that the station will screen the Tour from 4pm local time until the end of the stage, thus joining Eurosport in showing the race. While the latter has been able to provide coverage to cycling fans, the addition of a mainstream channel should have a positive effect on helping the sport to grow again.
ARD’s signing up for the race will however see it pay out less than in the past. Between 2009 and 2011 it and ZDF paid a combined total of 20 million euro; according to Spiegel, the new deal will see ARD alone step forward again, and pay five million euro.
The deal will last two years and can be broken under a doping clause if there are new incidents.
The country was represented in last year’s Tour by the NetApp Endura squad, and also by riders such as Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). Kittel clocked up four stage wins, repeating his haul from 2013, while Greipel took stage six.
Kittel’s team has taken out a German licence this year and can expect to be heavily featured in coverage. Speaking to CyclingTips recently, he said that he hoped German TV would come back on board.
“After 2014, I am actually pretty confident that we took again some important steps,” he said.
“We have got a German main sponsor now [Alepcin – ed.] in our team. The team also applied successfully for a German licence. We have a German WorldTour team, more or less, now again. So they are all things that indicate that the development that we took in the last years is absolutely positive and that cycling is on its way back at home.
“I hope that media stations, TV stations, see that now and I hope there is some good news in the future for us.”
That now appears to be the case, and Giant-Alpecin can build towards what it, Kittel, John Degenkolb and the other riders will hope will be a very successful campaign.
As for the former NetApp-Endura squad, now titled Bora-Argon18, its chances of securing a wildcard appear to have been boosted by the news.
Speaking to CyclingTips, Irish sprinter Sam Bennett said that the team is fully committed to trying to secure a repeat invite after a successful 2014 participation.
“The Tour is something that the team would really like to be in. They are making a really big effort to be selected,” he stated.
“I would absolutely love to get into the Tour and to be our sprinter for it. That’s a big goal for me.”
The news of the return of German TV to the Tour will expand the audience for the race, but may well have other knock on effects.
The country has the strongest economy in the European Union and increased visibility of the sport could lead to financial benefits, including more sponsorship.
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