(Bilbao) A formidable sounding board for all demands, the Tour de France, which begins on Saturday, is preparing again this year for actions by environmental activists, while the issue of climate change is becoming more and more acute in cycling and sport in general.

Plugged golf holes, rowdy Formula 1 Grand Prix, interrupted tennis matches and even snooker games… sporting events are regularly targeted by activists warning about the climate emergency. Cycling is unique in that it is both a clean means of transport and an inevitably polluting activity at the highest level.

“We fly all the time. The teams’ trucks go to the races. There are the publicity caravans and all the following cars. It is often a huge procession. Our profession is not very virtuous in terms of the climate”, considers the German runner Simon Gescke who became vegan, “my way of acting”, he says.

With its caravan, its promotional gadgets dumped by the millions, its helicopters for the guests and its huge crowds, the Tour de France embodies, like no other cycling event, the paradox of a sport which is both a tool for promoting mobility sweet, but also a carbon emitter.

Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the organizing company of the Tour, says it is making efforts and refers to a carbon assessment carried out in 2021 which showed that emissions (including indirect emissions) had fallen by almost 40% compared to the previous assessment. performed in 2013.

And in terms of pollution, the advertising caravan does not weigh, according to figures from ASO, not very heavy, rejecting 4,505 tonnes of CO2 in 2021 out of a total of 216,000 tonnes (compared to 341,000 tonnes in 2013). In fact, more than 90% comes from indirect emissions caused by the millions of spectators who go to the roadside.

But some cities, such as Rennes in 2021, have already refused to organize the start of the Tour for environmental reasons, in the wake of criticism from the environmentalist mayor of Lyon Grégory Doucet who had deemed the race outdated and polluting.

This year, the Tour de France will stop in Bordeaux for the first time since 2010. At the request of the ecologist mayor Pierre Hurmic. “I had to meet Christian Prudhomme (the director of the Tour, editor’s note) to persuade him that an ecological city was demanding the Tour de France”, said the elected official to AFP, assuming he wanted to break the image of ecologists opposed by nature to the great rout.

Last year, the Tour de France was targeted three times by environmental activists from Last Renovation.

“We don’t want to alienate a whole section of the population. Spectators of the Tour de France are numerous in France. But it is an extremely powerful media platform, ”explains their representative Nicolas Turcev to AFP.

This year, the authorities are watching for new actions, especially during the 9th stage on July 9 between Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat and Puy de Dôme. It must pass through the Millevaches plateau where the En’duo du Limousin motorcycle race was disrupted in November.

Surveillance will be high there, according to a source with territorial intelligence, especially since the stage will take place on a Sunday, which offers a maximum “media window”.

Christian Prudhomme said he was “neither more nor less worried than usual” to AFP. He just points out that “blocking the Tour is very often, if not always, counterproductive for the people who do it”. “I even have the feeling sometimes that they don’t realize that they are putting themselves in danger. Because a peloton that arrives at 50 km/h you don’t stop it like that. »

The Tour de France – an event of planetary significance and therefore a “phenomenal sounding board” according to Prudhomme – has always been the receptacle for claims of all kinds. ASO officials often demolish several per day.

But ecology is becoming an increasingly important subject. “These kinds of actions will be repeated,” said French runner Guillaume Martin, very concerned about “the challenge of the century” and who says he himself feels a “certain form of guilt” for practicing his profession.