Why a Green Party mayor brought 'polluting' Tour de France back to Bordeaux

Pierre Hurmic will see his city’s 13-year Tour de France drought end next year

Mark Cavendish in Bordeaux at the Tour de France in 2010
(Image credit: Bryn Lennon / Getty)

Pierre Hurmic wants to be remembered as the mayor who brought the Tour de France back to Bordeaux. After 13 long years, the Tour’s second most visited city will return to the race route for 2023, hosting a stage finish on 7 July. 

“This has been the fruit of discussions with the Tour’s race director Christian Prudhomme,” Hurmic told Franceinfo (opens in new tab). “I went to see him when the race came to Libourne last year and we got chatting.”

A childhood cycling fan, the Europe Ecology - The Greens (EELV) member is convinced by the race’s environmental credentials. 

“The Tour resolutely fits into an eco-responsible approach,” Hurmic tweeted following the route announcement last week. “[It] has drastically limited its CO2 emissions and promotes and supports cycling-friendly cities, in line with the trajectory taken by our city.”

The Tour de France’s most recent carbon audit revealed that emissions fell by almost 40% between 2013 and 2021. The race, however, continues to leave a lasting impact on the climate, having contributed 216,388 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in its 2021 edition. 

Due to its track record, Green mayors in the country have typically not been so welcoming of the Tour. In 2020, Grégory Doucet, mayor of Lyon, described the race as “macho” and “polluting”, his first remark referring to the lack of a women’s equivalent at the time. 

“How many internal combustion engine vehicles does it take to keep the riders racing? How much waste is generated?” Doucet asked. “All the small objects, the goodies, things that are thrown away by the publicity caravan must be redesigned to be sustainable or not thrown away at all.” 

The mayor of Grenoble, Eric Piolle, also of the EELV party, agreed at the time that the race needed to evolve. 

Since then, race organiser ASO has made a number of environmental commitments, boasting today that 100% of carbon emissions "attributable to the organisation (opens in new tab)" are offset. This does not include those of teams, journalists, sponsors and spectators, millions of whom line the roadside each year. 

All goodies from the caravan are also now said to be made from recycled or recyclable materials, and the race's 250-strong fleet of Škoda cars are all hybrid models. Only race director Prudhomme's command vehicle is fully electric. 

Bordeaux's love affair with the Tour

Pierre Hurmic, mayor of Bordeaux, smells a glass of red wine

Mayor of Bordeaux Pierre Hurmic at a wine tasting in 2021.

(Image credit: Getty)

The Tour de France has visited Bordeaux 80 times since the event was first held in 1903. More than half of those occasions came under the mayorship of Jacques Chaban-Delmas (a close friend of then Tour director Jacques Goddet) who welcomed the race 43 times between 1947 and 1995. 

Chaban-Delmas was replaced in 1995 by fellow Republican Alain Juppé, a keen cycling advocate, who served two long stints until 2019. Though Juppé too welcomed the race during his tenure - most recently in 2010 when he joined stage winner Mark Cavendish on the podium - the city turned its focus away from cycling events. 

Juppé’s sports minister Arielle Piazza said in 2018 that Bordeaux could no longer afford to be “immobilised” by the Tour de France. Over the ensuing years, the city chose instead to hold rugby union competitions and the World Veteran Table Tennis Championships.

In his 22 years in charge, Juppé saw the Tour stop in Bordeaux just seven times. The race, it turned out, had become difficult to host. Tour organisers had begun favouring smaller towns, partly due to the increase in car traffic in France’s larger cities. The rising cost of welcoming the race, thought to be in the region of €100,000 for a stage start or finish, also put the city’s decision-makers off. 

Now, Hurmic is leading Bordeaux’s Tour de France resurgence. Elected just two years ago, the Green Party mayor is already preparing to welcome the city's first stage finish since 2010. Should the day be a success, it could mark a new beginning for Bordeaux and its love affair with the Tour.  

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