Tour de France to return to German TV
Matthew Tempest · 6 Jan 2015, 16:51
Published: 06 Jan 2015 08:55 GMT+01:00
Updated: 06 Jan 2015 16:51 GMT+01:00
- ARD mulls return to Tour de France broadcast (27 Nov 14)
- Ullrich admits: 'I'm no better than Armstrong' (22 Jun 13)
- Cyclist admits doping, says doctors helped (29 Mar 13)
Cycling fans in Germany have been without live coverage of the highlight of the cycling sporting calendar since 2011, when both ARD and ZDF dropped broadcasts, blaming falling viewing figures following a series of high-profile scandals which destroyed the sport's credibility.
Now ARD has announced it will show the Tour again this summer - albeit with an exit clause allowing it to halt coverage if the Tour is again hit with a drugs debacle in the peloton.
ARD's initial contract will run for two years, and is a sign of the growing popularity of a wave of new German rising stars in the sport, such as Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel.
German telecoms giant T-Mobile dropped its sponsorship of a team in 2007, following a succession of positive dope tests from riders, signalling the beginning of the end for German coverage of the annual French summer event.
The revelation that 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich, Germany's first yellow jersey winner and a national hero from the former East German city of Rostock, had also used blood doping, sent the sport's reputation into freefall in Germany.
The ARD contract reportedly cost €5 million for the two years.
26-year old superstar sprinter Marcel Kittel told the Süddeutsche Zeitung "This is really, really good news, which makes me really happy. We are now getting an opportunity and we want to use it."
Three-times world time trial champion Tony Martin added: "This is a super story. We will do everything we can to entertain audiences."
Both, along with other German riders, have signed a petition backing a new law which will make sporting doping a national criminal offence.
Cycling may be seeing something or a resurgence in Germany, with seven German stage wins in last year's Tour de France.
Cycling author and presenter of The Cycling Podcast, Lionel Birnie, told The Local "Cycling was going through a massive boom in Germany when this (pulling transmission) happened. It was a major blow, and I can't think of another nation that took such a stance.
"It stunned cycling to have one of the biggest markets in Europe not show the Tour live, and was a huge blow to cycling as a whole.
"Now Germany is having a terrific year again, and in Marcel Kittel have one of the most charismatic characters in the world of cycling, so to have it on free-to-air TV can only attract more eyeballs."