PARIS (AFP) — After Kazakhstan won the Tour de France, the Central Asian state now wants to host the Tour, a top official said Monday.
Rejoicing after Vincenzo Nibali of the government backed Astana team clinched victory on Sunday, Kairat Kelimbetov, president of Kazakh Cycling, told AFP his country wants to host the start of the race like England did this year.
Kelimbetov, who is also head of Kazakhstan’s central bank, said the idea may seem “a joke” now but his oil-rich country is serious and is negotiating for a chance before 2020.
The northern English county of Yorkshire staged the first three days of this year’s Tour de France, bringing millions onto the streets to watch.
“It’s like a joke now, but this Yorkshire experience is very interesting for us,” said Kelimbetov.
“The Tour de France has become global and cycling has become global and everyone was absolutely excited when five million people came onto the streets” in England.
“The idea is to one day bring it to Kazakhstan,” he said. “It took three years for Yorkshire to be prepared and I think we could deliver it also.”
It is some 3,000 miles from Astana, capital of the world’s biggest landlocked country, to Paris. But Kelimbetov said the western tip of Kazakhstan is part of Europe, “so why not?”
Kazakhstan will host the world junior cycling championships next year. The cycling chief said he had asked the UCI, cycling’s governing body, about staging the main world cycling and road racing championships after 2018.
The country’s former capital Almaty is also challenging Oslo and Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.