The ‘best cycling city’ gears up a warm welcome to Tour de France riders

(Courtesy of Tour de France, Kenneth Stjernegaard)

By Olivia Wynkoop

Roughly 100 days until the world’s best cyclists line up on Copenhagen’s Nørre Farimagsgade to kickstart their 2,000-mile journey across Denmark – and of course, France – in hopes of sporting the coveted yellow Tour de France jersey by late July. 

Before trekking up the Alps and hitting the cobbles of northern France, the 184 cyclists will tackle a 13.1 km time trial in Copenhagen, the furthest foreign destination the race has ever planned.

But the city known for its bike-friendly infrastructure is ready to make the extra distance worthwhile with a two-day, nationwide yellow folk festival, accompanied by 5,000 volunteers and a sea of cheering bike enthusiasts.

Denmark will also be the first foreign country to host multiple stages – following Copenhagen comes two flat stages; first 190km from Rosklide to Nyborg, then a 170 km run from Vekle to Sønderborg. The riders will then have the earliest rest period to date as they travel back to France.

“I am really happy and proud that today we can present three unique stages where the field passes some of the most beautiful areas of Copenhagen and Denmark,’ stated Copenhagen Commune Lord Mayor Frank Jensen in a press release. “It will be a yellow folk festival everywhere in our streets and on the country roads, where we also show our beautiful cycling country in front of the whole world. It will be fantastic!”

Convincing Tour de France event planners to select Copenhagen as its first Scandinavian destination has been 25 years in the making, said leading sports event organizers. Denmark summited its chance for a Grand Départ slot back in 2016 with the catchphrase “The greatest cycling race in the world meets the best cycling city in the world,” after successfully hosting Giro d’Italia in 2012.

Historically, televised sporting events like these have not only strengthened Denmark’s reputation as a biking hub and showcased its landscape to prospective visitors, but it also raked in lots of tourism – 545,000 spectators and over 31 million Euros in revenue came to Copenhagen thanks to the 2011 Union Cycliste Internationale Road World Championship.

And the Tour de France holds a magnitude greater than the city has ever seen before. 

The exact number of how many international visitors will come is still unknown, but the extensive media coverage and events leading up to the big day are certainly creating a buzz in the air, said Jonas Løvschall-Wedel of Wonderful Copenhagen.

“Copenhagen ranks as the world’s bike city and the bikes have become a symbol for the city,” Løvschall-Wedel said. “This doesn’t necessarily mean that all tourists ride a bike while they visit, but it’s part of the city’s brand as a modern city with a strong focus on sustainability.”

Dennis Gubbelholm of Dennis & Lottes Cykler (Linnéa Strömberg)

A fleeting bike boom

For bike repairman Dennis Gubbelholm, whose Shimano-filled shop is only steps away from the starting line, the Grand Departure is another day in the life.

As a Shimano-certified workshop, Dennis & Lottes Cykler will collaborate with the leading bike brand to place promotional material outside the store to make it more visible to Tour de France fans.

“We do expect a bit more like business during those days, but we aren’t, like, overly-hyped for this one yet. Maybe catch us when we are actually there.” Gubbelholm said. 

Biking booms have come and gone over the years, he said, specifically citing the spike in bike sales during COVID-19 lockdowns. This may bring a small increase to business, but nothing that will dramatically add to Copenhagen’s already-solid foundation of bikers, he said.

“The people who are commuting already know the benefits of it, the ones who insist on driving their car won’t be swayed by an event,” Gubbelholm said.

A chance to connect

Kim Sivery of Rapha (Linnéa Strömberg)

Step into Copenhagen’s Rapha location, and the conversation is different.

The swanky half-cycling-store, half-coffee-shop frequently hosts and sponsors cycling events around Denmark, and the Grand Departure brings two exciting opportunities for its biking club members, said Marketing Manager Kim Sivert.

First, the potential chance to race down the streets of Copenhagen that are typically bike-free, but closed off from cars because of the special circumstances.

“They’ll actually be two streets away from here, and we hope that we can ride before the time trial with some of our customers, but a lot of things are up in the air right now,” Sivert said. “The [Amaury Sport Organisation], who runs the tour, is very strict about what you’re able to do and what you’re not.”

Additionally, some Tour de France cyclists will be in Copenhagen up to two weeks before the event, said Sivert. The chances of running into teams is high on Copenhagen’s popular routes for serious cyclists, he said.

“I’m pretty confident that during the rides we may see some of the teams, because they need to train, so they will be out on the road,” Sivert said.

Sivert said the Tour de France is special because of its access — there is no stadium with limited seats and ticket prices. Instead, citizens of Copenhagen and bike enthusiasts from afar can celebrate freely, in the city of the bike.

“I think there are a lot of events going on, and every company is trying to take advantage in some way,” said Sivert. “I really think it’s going to be huge and amazing, so I’m really looking forward to it.”