The 2022 Tour de France began on Danish soil. GETTY IMAGES

Denmark is one of the countries with the greatest passion for cycling, with its roads and streets full of bicycles as part of everyday life and with several champions from the past and present, with the winner of the last two Tours de France, Jonas Vingegaard, as a great reference and at the same time the main attraction for the youngsters.

Two weeks ago, the country was also awarded a UCI WorldTour test in principle for the years 2025, 2026 and 2027 between Roskilde and the capital Copenhagen, a distance of around 250 kilometres in a country without mountains. 

On the final day of the Women's Handball World Championship, Insidethegames caught up with Ulrich Gorm Albrechtsen, Communications and Commercial Manager of Danmarks Cycle Union (Danish Cycling Federation), who is already looking forward to the new challenge in a country that hosted the start of the Giro d'Italia in 2012 and the Tour de France in 2022, when Vingegaard will once again wear the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysées.

How important is it for a country like Denmark to host a UCI WorldTour race?

Well, Denmark is a cycling country. If you go anywhere in the country, you'll see bikes everywhere. And if you're with a bunch of people and you ask how many of them have a bike, everyone raises their hand and says yes.

Not just having them, but using them.

Exactly. If you go to a public school, the kids come on their bikes. And in the cities, people cycle to and from work. So cycling in general is very important in our country and we have a long and proud tradition of professional cycling. We have had and still have many riders at the top level. Denmark is now second in the 2023 UCI World Ranking, so cycling is really important to the Danish people. That is why we have been looking for the opportunity to host a race.

Ulrich Gorm Albrechtsen gave an interview to Insidethegames. FACEBOOK
Ulrich Gorm Albrechtsen gave an interview to Insidethegames. FACEBOOK

When did you really start fighting for it?

The work on the WorldTour started about a year ago. We looked at the possibilities and started talking to people. We asked ourselves if it was possible, we saw that there was an opportunity and then we applied for the licence to host the WorldTour event. And we got it last week on Wednesday the 13th. We got the acceptance that we could host the race and we did it together with our good partners.

And how important is it to have an organisation like Sport Event Denmark?

We have different levels. We have the federation that applies for the race. That's the first level. And then we have Sport Event Denmark, which is very important because they look out in the world and try to attract big international events to come to Denmark. It's an important factor because, as far as I know, it's probably the only country that has that institution. And below that is the government. That's the last step. Our Minister of Culture and our Minister of Finance and Employment. They all focus on it because they know that it can draw attention to Denmark. And then the municipalities where the races will take place are also very important.

Do they help a lot?

If they were not a part of it, it would be difficult to have the race there. So in this case, with the World Tour, the municipalities of Copenhagen and Roskilde are very important, because Roskilde is the start city and Copenhagen is the finish city. And we need them with us as partners. It's like everyone has the opportunity and everyone is going in to the same direction.

Sport Event Denmark commented to Insidethegames that almost 80% of Danish bids are successful, which is hard to believe...

This means that you have to do a very good work beforehand and only go when you are sure that you have everything you need. If we bid for a race, get it and then Copenhagen or Roskilde aren't interested, we'd have a problem. So we will always have the different parties with us.

Now you have almost a year and a half before the race. Are you preparing a test for 2024?

No, we are not, because... It may sound silly, but Denmark is a very small country, so the people who are starting to work on the tracks now know the country. We are going to invite people from the municipalities, and we are going to invite former riders and former sports directors from cycling teams to participate with their knowledge. The course has not yet been decided yet, but we are now concentrating on making it the best it can be. We don't have any mountains here.

Denmark has a special passion for cycling. GETTY IMAGES
Denmark has a special passion for cycling. GETTY IMAGES

When are you planning to have the final project?

We will start now. Of course you have Roskilde here and Copenhagen 35 km to the east. So you either go this way or that way. We know that the men's race has to be about 250 kilometres. The distance between the two cities is very small, so you have to go up or down. Right now the work is starting to prepare for that and to find the different possible best roads. Then I would say that in the spring of 2024 we could have a proposal for the route.

Would you like to host a congress, a conference or an important meeting in the days leading up to the event?

Yes, we would. First of all, we don't want it to be just a cycle race where people and cyclists come for the race and leave when it's over. We don't want that.
We want to involve the Danish people. So of course we want to make it possible for people to come and ride their own bikes on the course. And we'd also like to have different events where politicians talk about cycling and how you can get more people to use their bikes.

In a cycling country like Denmark, how can you make this event different?

Well, first of all, we have many years of knowledge about cycling. We have some of the best riders who will come and take part. And we have... If you look at the Danish population, we are a little less than six million, but over a million people like cycling. 566,000 people use bikes for exercise. And almost the same number are just people who like cycling. So if you look at a general number, more than a million people like cycling as their main sport, which is 20%. On race day, and again because Denmark is such a small country, there are races every weekend and people in their cars are affected by the races. It has a lot to do with communication. They're used to it. And if you go out in advance and tell people that these roads are closed on Sunday, then you have to take a different route. People like cycling and we don't have a problem with that, because we communicate about it all the time and we always go out in time to tell people that you can be affected by it. When we had the Giro d'Italia in 2012, the whole city was closed down and there were no problems. There was a couple who wanted to get married in the church in the city centre. So we asked them what we could do. FInally they were given a meeting place outside the city and then the police came on  motorcycles to escort them in their cars to the church, they got married and were escorted out.

How is it possible that a country of almost six million people has names like Bjarne Riis, Rasmussen, Skibby, Bo Hamburger and now the big name, Vingegaard?

One of the main reasons is that you start cycling when you're a little kid. Then you get a bike and you start riding. And when you find out that this is going to be your sport, Denmark has one thing that not many countries have. We have a very strong westerly wind, so all the riders either ride in the rain or in strong winds. So they are tough riders. I think that makes the difference because the riders are tough and used to the climate.

Would you use the 2024 Tour of Denmark to promote the race?

Yes, of course. We always do. When we as a federation participate in big events like the Tour of Denmark, we always use it to promote our clubs. We have five stages in the Tour of Denmark. Five days of cycling in a small country. Wherever we go, we always have the local clubs helping us and we also do some promotion for them. When the Giro was in Herning, Herning Cycling Club was there to help out, but they also had the result was that a lot of young people said, "Ah, I want to ride a bike too. And then they join the club and the club grows. So we always use our big events to help the clubs get new members.

Denmark's Jonas Vingegaard aiming for third consecutive Tour de France in 2024. GETTY IMAGES
Denmark's Jonas Vingegaard aiming for third consecutive Tour de France in 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Do you think that things work better in Denmark than abroad?

Yes, definitely. Denmark is a very structured country. So when you say we want to do this race, you are committed and everyone is working towards the same goal. It's always a team effort. And again, when we do something like the WorldTour, it's a team effort between the federation, the municipalities, the government and the local clubs. One more thing... when Vingegaard won the Tour de France for the first time, the federation arranged for him to come back to Denmark and be welcomed by the people. More than 100,000 people came to welcome him in Copenhagen. It was crazy. The second time was the same story. Both times he won, it was like a river of joy flowing through the clubs, because the young people came and said I want to be like him. For a few years there were fewer and fewer kids coming to the road cycling clubs, but now, thanks to him, the numbers are increasing again.

Would you say he is one of the top three in Danish sport?

Yes, I think so. Last year we had the annual sports gala, a big show, and he was the sports personality of the year. And I know he will be nominated again this year.

Was Denmark missing such an event on the UCI WorldTour? Was it some kind of necessity?

I think it's a natural progression of things happening. The Giro in 2012, the Tour de France in 2022... The Danish Tour and now the UCI is the final step. It might seem like we are bragging, but we are not. But it's natural for us to apply for the WorldTour now, because we want to have a big race in Denmark every year, year after year.

Now Denmark has a three-year licence...

When it started the Tour of Flanders many years ago, I'm sure they didn't say they would only going to do it for three years. Of course we dream about it. But at the moment it's three years. What we dream about is that it could be an annual race, year after year. That would be very, very nice.