Grand Départ 2017 : Düsseldorf
Director of the Tour de France
Thirty years later!
The Tour likes to look at its history because it has the vocation of turning towards the future. It was already its inspiration back in 1987 when it had launched a strong signal, an invitation to eastern Europe by taking off by the Berlin Wall. That look back in the rear view mirror pushes us to look back at thirty years of cycling and especially the evolution of German riders that had until then mainly shined through stage victories, from Rudi Altig to Dietrich Thurau. The greatest honours of the Tour de France were witnessed by the German fans during the next decade before a cruel disappointment that followed leading to deny the event itself.
Through their severity, the Germans showed through these events their insight. In a certain way they acted as the barometer of the troubles of our sport that has since then seen a generation of new champions appear. Among them, André Greipel, Tony Martin, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb have conquered titles and reconquered hearts. They delivered a message of hope and confidence that has notably allowed the return of public television channel ARD, well decided to bring a new vision of a changed cycling.
It was this idea, this vision that Düsseldorf wanted to be associated to, and its inhabitants have never stopped riding their bikes. Set on both banks of the Rhine River, the capital of North Rhine -Westphalia was designated to welcome the return of la Grande Boucle to Germany. Mayor Thomas Geisel, believed in this destiny: through his determination, he too ended a long wait…
Mayor of Düsseldorf
An honour and a pleasure
When dreams come true… the Tour de France is starting from Düsseldorf in 2017! It is an honour, after 30 years, to be the fourth German host city of the Grand Départ and to be able to celebrate the start of the most famous cycling race in the world with our guests.
It is both an honour and a pleasure for our city on the Rhine which as the capital of the most densely populated federal state can offer everything you would expect from a good host. We enjoy welcoming people here to “Little Paris”.
I therefore warmly invite you to discover the people and the beauty of our city. From culture via shopping to remarkable architecture including both historical landmarks (Church of St Lambert) and impressive modern structures (buildings designed by Frank O. Gehry), there is something for everyone here. Or why don’t you just enjoy our Rhenish version of joie de vivre.
And sports are also given a high profile here. Düsseldorf is mad about sports. Our three most famous teams Fortuna (football), DEG (ice hockey) and Borussia (table tennis) ensure there is plenty of sporting passion on the pitches and courts and among the fans. And recreational sport also plays a key role here in our city with over 300 clubs.
In a growing metropolis like Düsseldorf, the bicycle is not just for leisure purposes. That is why we are building a 300-kilometre-long cycle path network and are promoting the bike as a fast and ecological means of transport. The Grand Départ can also make an important contribution to this concept.
We, inhabitants of Düsseldorf, with our visitors, are looking forward to being able to welcome and celebrate sports, cycling and its champions during the Grand Départ of the 104th Tour de France.
Bathed by the Rhine, Düsseldorf, 620 000 inhabitants, is the capital of the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia which is the most populated in Germany. In the heart the Rhine-Ruhr area – 11.6-million inhabitants and 500 000 companies – it is one of the most important economical centres of the country.
It is also considered as the German capital of fashion, hence its nickname of “Little Paris”, and on “Kö”, Königsallee, the king’s alley, are gathered the most prestigious brands. Within walking distance, the old historical town is filled with bars and restaurants while the walk along the Rhine gives a Mediterranean atmosphere by the water. The academy of fine arts as well as around twenty museums and exhibition centres, the Benrath Castle, the theater (Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus), the German opera on the Rhine (Deutsche Oper am Rhein), the Tonhalle concert hall, also make it a renowned cultural metropolis. Sports also has an important place whether it concerns leisure sports accessible to all or professional sports (football, ice-hockey). Finally, other than the Tour de France, Düsseldorf will in 2017 host the table-tennis world championships as well as the European triathlon championships.
Cosmopolitan charm and Rhenish joie de vivre characterise the North Rhine-Westphalia state capital Düsseldorf with its almost 620,000 inhabitants. And yet Düsseldorf used to be just a small village which grew up alongside the Düssel stream (explaining the name, Düssel plus “Dorf” or village in English) and the settlement was granted town privileges in 1288. Today, this dynamic and likeable metropolis on the Rhine stands for business, shopping, culture, sports and hospitality.
The business location of Düsseldorf is the heart of the Rhine-Ruhr region with 11.6 million inhabitants and 500,000 companies and is one of the leading commercial, service and communication centres. It is not far from the shopping boulevard Königsallee, affectionately known as “Kö”, to the historic Old Town with its 260 bars and restaurants where visitors can easily enter into conversation with the Düsseldorf locals. The neighbouring Rhine embankment promenade contributes to the city’s Mediterranean lifestyle, inviting visitors for a stroll alongside the water. The “Kunstakademie” or Arts Academy as well as more than two dozen museums and exhibition halls, Schloss Benrath, the Düsseldorf theatre, the German opera house, “Deutsche Oper am Rhein”, the concert hall “Tonhalle”, over one hundred galleries, numerous stages and concert venues make Düsseldorf a recognised cultural metropolis. Sports are also popular here. In addition to recreational sports and the city’s professional sports teams, major sporting events are also regularly staged here. In 2017 alone, not only the Grand Départ but also the Table Tennis World Championship and the Triathlon European Championship will be taking place in the sporting city of Düsseldorf.
No wonder that international research surveys rank Düsseldorf among the leading cities in the world when it comes to quality of life.
In July 2017, Düsseldorf will welcome the fourth German Grand Départ of the Tour de France after Cologne (1965), Frankfurt (1980) and Berlin-West (1987). The sprinters and “rouleurs” of the current generation with the likes of Greipel, Kittel and Martin carry on collecting stage victories…
The cycling historian knows Josef Fischer, winner of the first edition of Paris-Roubaix in 1896. His influence on the Tour de France was slightly less commentated but he was among the “unconscious and harsh energy sowers” that Henri Desgrange talked about on the morning of the first stage in 1903 (15th at the finish in Paris) and therefore remains the pioneer of all German riders on La Grande Boucle. Later Kurt Stöpel who claimed the first ever stage success of his nation could have had far more fame if he had managed to keep the Yellow Jersey he conquered for one day all the way to Paris in 1932. He eventually had to settle for second spot behind André Leducq. No other German rider really got closer to the supreme title although Dietrich Thurau carried the Yellow Jersey on his shoulders throughout France, and a part of Germany, during the 1977 edition… and even Jan Ullrich was just an illusion until the very end, twenty years later. On the other hand, German riders have managed to shine, at different periods, in terms of stage victories. It was the case in the sixties with regretted Rudi Altig, winner of eight stages, and then Erik Zabel, a six-time winner of the Green Jersey. On the last four editions, their successors were the most efficient stage winners with a challenged yet obvious domination in terms of sprints. This year, André Greipel saw his victory tally reach 11 wins while Marcel Kittel added a ninth success to his Tour record. Tony Martin shared his five triumphs in both time-trials and normal stages while John Degenkolb suffered a setback that certainly prevented him from entering that glorious club. And the future is just as bright…
By plane: International airport of Düsseldorf, 8 kilometres from the city centre.
By train: Several daily Thalys trains from Paris. Time of journey: 3h45.
By road: 505 kms from Paris to Düsseldorf by the highway.
Dates to remember
Wednesday, June 28th: Opening of the race headquarters and the press centre at Messe Düsseldorf (Exhibition Park).
Thursday, June 29th: Team presentation of the 2017 Tour de France at the Burgplatz.
Saturday, July 1st: First stage, Düsseldorf > Düsseldorf individual time-trial of 13 kilometres.
Sunday, July 2nd: Start of the second stage, Düsseldorf > Liège
DÜSSELDORF > DÜSSELDORF
A time-trial of 13 kilometres in the streets of Düsseldorf, this will be the first exercise offered to the riders of the 2017 Tour de France. The start will take place in front of the Messe, the exhibition park where the race headquarters and press centre of the event will be set. After taking off on the east side of the Rhine river heading towards the south-east of the city, the riders will cross the river for a loop on the left bank, before again crossing in the opposite direction to go to Königsallee, the emblematic street of the city. Then, after the opera, the course turns to the north-west, once again along the Rhine. The finish will be decided by the Messe. “It’ll be an entirely flat course on wide avenues. The time-trial specialists will be able to express their potential”, explains Thierry Gouvenou, in charge of cycling competitions at Amaury Sport Organisation.
DÜSSELDORF > LIÈGE
It’ll be from the Burgplatz, the castle place, having hosted the team presentation three days before, that stage two will take off. On a distance of 9 kilometres, it will start by a long parade going along the Düsseldorf harbour. The official start will take place on the east side of the city on Kaiserstrasse and as soon as kilometre 6, the first points of the king of the mountain competition will be awarded at the top of Grafenberg. The pack will then leave the city towards east to go through Erkrath and the Neander valley, a prehistoric site where the bones of the Neanderthal Man were discovered. The race then heads north towards Mettmann and then west to once travel through Düsseldorf. Around fifty kilometres of this second stage will have been covered before heading to…
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