Paris (AFP)

Heading west in 2021: the Tour de France will start next year from the city of Brest and have its first four stages in Brittany, the region and Tour director Christian Prudhomme announced on Monday.

The announcement of the Great Departure from Brittany was made at the headquarters of the Regional Council by its president Loïg Chesnais-Girard (PS) and officials of the Tour, a week after the forced renunciation of Copenhagen.

"We were discussing with the Brittany region the next Grand Départ since 2018," Christian Prudhomme told AFP. "Last fall, we stuck to 2022 and we had planned an announcement in the spring. But, of course, the pandemic has happened there."

Copenhagen, which was due to host the 2021 Grand Départ, will wait another year. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to the summer of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic caused a change in the dates of the Tour and, as a consequence, of the site of its launch.

"We understood a month ago that the cycling events of the Olympic Games would not change dates and the International Cycling Union brought the Tour forward by a week. The mayor of Copenhagen told us: + we want the Tour but we don't know not to do for reasons of security and logistics, for us also of lodging. The only possible solution, it was a year later ", added Christian Prudhomme while adding" to be really grateful to the Regional Council to have reversed with Denmark".

The kick-off will therefore be given in Brest for the fourth time in the 100-year history of the Tour. The city and beyond its metropolis, which has some 420,000 inhabitants, has already hosted the Grand Départ in 1952, 1974 and 2008. Against only once in Rennes (in 1964), the regional prefecture.

- Four starts, a record -

"Four starts of the Tour, it will be a record for a city other than Paris", noted Christian Prudhomme. "There is a real logic to start from the end of the peninsula and to come back. I remember receiving a letter from the mayor saying a few years ago + We are at the end of the peninsula, they come to see us a little less often but we love the Tour + ".

Asked about the hypothesis of a Grand Départ in Rennes, refused by elected local environmentalists, Christian Prudhomme avoided the controversy: "The Tour can only go where the communities want us to go, it has always been like that . "

"Even with four 100% Breton stages, we know that we will not be able to satisfy all the candidates," said the director of the Tour without revealing the names of the stage towns. "It's a very strong passage that Brittany deserves. Four stages, it's been a long time since it happened. In 2008, it was two stages and one start".

Christian Prudhomme also mentioned Hauts-de-France, "another region which obviously loves cycling": "We will not go next year when they were initially on the 2021 route. The change of Grand Départ made that this is the first week of the Tour that is changing. "

To know the route, it will be necessary to wait a few months. The presentation of the Tour 2021 is scheduled for October 29, a week later than expected.

© 2020 AFP