LEBLANC CALLS IT A DAY
Former Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc ended his two-decade career as a race boss at the end of the first stage of the Tour of Qatar.
In an extensive interview with the news agency Reuters, Leblanc commented that he had no special feelings about leaving the sport, “because it has been a departure that’s been on the cards for a long time.”
“I don’t feel particularly sad. For the last ten years, the succession of doping affairs in cycling has worn me down a bit, but generally speaking cycling has given me a lot over the years.”
Leblanc said making Qatar the last race where he had an official role - he gave the trophy to Quick Step for winning the first stage - was “purely anecdotal. I really felt more emotional on the Champs Elysees last summer where [Tour and Qatar organisers] ASO gave me a big send-off.”
“2006 had a lot of doping affairs once again - Puerto in Spain, Landis in the Tour. But Frederic Guesdon’s win in Paris-Tours and Paolo Bettini’s victory in Lombardy last autumn were victories we could all appreciate had their significance.”
He took one last side-swipe at the UCI, saying that [former UCI President] Hein Verbruggen “could have been a good president in the past, but instead his only interest has been commercial and financial. If I’d been UCI president, I would have concentrated much more on the fight against doping.”
The Tour boss since 1989, Leblanc has overseen the modernisation of cycling’s blue riband event, but he says it is time for him to move on and let his successor Christian Prudhomme take over the rains of power.
“When I read the start-list of the Tour of Qatar, I realised I only knew about 20 percent of the riders by name and could only identify 10 percent of them for sure. So it’s time to move on.”
Leblanc has promised, however, that he will return to at least one race in the future - the Tour start in London this summer.