Start of Tour de France in Utrecht
The idea of bringing the start of the Tour de France to Utrecht was born in 2002 over drinks in the traditional Dutch café Vooghel in the city’s Oudwijk neighbourhood. The plan was launched by cycle racing journalist Jeroen Wielaert, with the support of former Tour winner Jan Janssen. What would follow was a lobbying process lasting ten years.
Utrecht’s bids to host the start in 2009 and 2010 ended in disappointed. In 2009 it was not Utrecht but Monaco that staged the start, and in 2010 Rotterdam snatched the honour from under Utrecht’s nose.
Despite these setbacks, Tour director Christian Prudhomme advised Janssen to keep on putting Utrecht forward as a candidate. He visited Utrecht several times, and was impressed by the city’s great enthusiasm for cycle racing.
But in October 2012 storm clouds gathered as, following the doping scandal that engulfed the cycling world, the Rabobank decided to stop sponsoring cycle racing. A key sponsor had been lost.
But still the dream lived on. Alongside Janssen and Wielaert, Mayor Aleid Wolfsen was fully committed to the event, and repeatedly took the train to Paris to assure Prudhomme that Utrecht was right behind the plan.
And then something remarkable happened. At the presentation of the 100th Tour de France in October 2012, Mayor Wolfsen noticed Prudhomme standing alone on the stage for a few moments. Seizing his opportunity, he shook Prudhomme’s hand and told him that Utrecht was still crazy about cycling. That one moment may have made all the difference.
On 8 November 2013 it was officially announced that Utrecht would be the venue for the start of the Tour de France in 2015. After Amsterdam (1954), Scheveningen (1973), Leiden (1978), Den Bosch (1996) and Rotterdam (2010), Utrecht will be the sixth Dutch city where the Tour will start.
The costs – somewhere in the region of 10 million Euros – will be shared between the city council and the business community. The excitement is mounting, and the sponsors are queuing up. The 10 million Euro mark has already been reached, and that promises a lot for what’s to come. Any money that is left will be spent on the many activities that Utrecht is organising. Le Grand Départ will be one big party!
Immediately after the announcement, the Tour de France organisers singled out Hotel Mitland, among a number of other Utrecht hotels. With its prime location close to the Galgenwaard stadium and the city centre, as well as its ample parking, Hotel Mitland makes the ideal residential hotel. The routes of the first two stages have now also been announced: on both July 4 and July 5 the route goes over the Waterlinieweg, and so right past Hotel Mitland!
This is not the first time that the hotel has been chosen for a major sporting event. During the football World Cup in June 2005 (with Messi and other top players) as well as several European hockey championships, darts tournaments and more, Mitland was right at the heart of the action.
The Tour de France 2015 will begin with a 13.7-kilometre individual time trial through the streets of Utrecht. The starting line will be next to the Jaarbeurs convention centre. If Utrecht wasn’t already on the world map, it is now!