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French sports newspaper L?Equipe reported on Monday that Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) and French state television have signed a new five-year deal for the Tour and ASO?s other races.

The new deal, running for five years and - so L?Equipe reports - worth 23 million euros a year to ASO, also covers other cycling events: Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Nice, Paris-Tours, Fleche, Liege, the Tour of Picardie, the Criterium International, the Tour de L?Avenir, Quatar and the Tour of Faso. Top motor race Paris-Dakar - or it?s replacement event - which is run by ASO, forms part of the agreement too.

A new agreement between French TV and ASO was vital for the Tour de France?s interests because it shows its other backers that despite the scandals of recent years, the main sponsor remains on board long-term. It also gives a measure of security to less profitable races such as Paris-Nice or Liege.

It could be argued, too, that the agreement indirectly reinforces ASO in their dispute with the UCI over the ProTour. Despite not forming part of cycling?s top league - which, coincidentally, starts tomorrow in Australia - the Tour?s new deal shows it remains in relatively good shape.

French TV president Patrick De Carolis is quoted as saying that ?the Tour remains our most popular event in France, and we?ll give it the biggest coverage possible.? French television sports director Daniel Bilailain also praised ASO for ?doing whatever cleaning up is necessary... they combine actions with words.?

Fans will also be pleased to discover that thanks to recent changes in French legislation, there should be no advertising breaks in coverage of the Tour on French television this summer.


2008 Tour de France route and stage list

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