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When the Tour de France Comes to Town

“We need to study this on our end, and I promise we’ll do what we can,” Prudhomme replied, according to Dufouleur. “If you do all you can on your end, I promise that you’ll get this.”

The men shook hands, but there was a long way to go.

Prudhomme, 56, makes the final decision on the route personally each year, with input from his organization’s sports officials. Aside from a few certainties — climbing stages in the Alps and the Pyrenees and the finish in Paris — the race’s structure allows for considerable flexibility. In an email, Prudhomme said his broad aims were to visit each region of France at least once every five years and to chart a course that is aesthetically pleasing but also physically and intellectually challenging, so that teams feel encouraged to employ interesting tactics.

Officials from A.S.O. are famously secretive as they move around France evaluating potential sites. In the years after the group dinner in 2011, Cartron kept his eye out for clues that Nuits-Saint-George might be under consideration. He convinced himself, for instance, that every stranger in town driving a Skoda — a car company that sponsors the race — was a Tour…

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