|Deutschland Tour to re-launch as ASO sign 'groundbreaking' partnership with German federation|
The Deutschland Tour, or Tour of Germany, was first held in 1911 but was stopped after the 2008 edition due to the image of cycling in the country being battered by a spate of doping cases. Public television company ARD had threatened to stop broadcasting the race and in 2012 they stopped showing the Tour de France as Germany’s relationship with the sport reached its nadir.
That situation has improved in the last few years thanks to a new wave of German riders, spearheaded by Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, coming through. The Tour returned to ARD screens last year and the Grand Départ for the 2017 Tour was awarded to Dusseldorf.
As such, Germany can be seen as a market with potential for huge growth, and Tour de France organisers ASO have sought to capitalise on that with this new ten-year agreement "for the sustainable promotion of cycling in Germany with the return of the Deutschland Tour as the centrepiece of the strategy."
There is no exact date set for the return of the race but it will be within the next two years. With Bayern-Rundfahrt pulled from the 2016 calendar due to a lack of funding, the Deutschland Tour could return as Germany's only professional stage race.
"ASO and the BDR, eager to support cycling's expansion [in Germany], have signed a long-term agreement to revive the Deutschland Tour and establish it as a top event over a ten-year horizon," read a statement from the two bodies. "Both partners are aiming to put the Deutschland Tour back on the calendar over the coming two years, as soon as all the key assets for a great stage race and a top-notch organisation are put in place."
The route will be designed to "play to the strengths of German riders" with sprints and Classics-flavoured stages intended to showcase the home talent. The event also aims to act as a "springboard for the biggest German talents, including the next generation of Grand Tour riders".
"This is a pivotal agreement for the BDR. The new Deutschland Tour will help spread the love of cycling in Germany and increase the popularity of all its facets," said the federation's president Rudolf Scharping. "27 million Germans already ride their bicycles regularly, and many German cities have recognised the importance of cycling in their mobility strategies. This is why the Deutschland Tour will not only be a pure sporting event, but a huge celebration of cycling."
The agreement sees ASO take considerable influence in Germany and can be seen in the light of its ongoing power struggle with the UCI over control of the sport. The French company has threatened to remove the Tour de France and its other races from the reformed WorldTour calendar next year and their part ownership of the Deutschland Tour, formerly a top-tier race, only strengthens their position.
"We share with the BDR the goal to make the Deutschland Tour attractive to wide swathes of the population and use the race to show them just how much fun cycling can be," said ASO General Manager Yann Le Moënner.
"As well as the elite competition, featuring the biggest champions from Germany and abroad, we will include rides for the thousands of dedicated amateurs and draw up an exciting programme for the fans and the wider public in the host cities."