BANGKOK – Sports and Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has reported that Tourism officials are finalising plans for a multi-stage cycling event along the Mekong River, while playing down confusion over talks last year with Tour de France organisers, according to the Bangkok Post.
Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said details of the “Tour de Kong” were still being worked on, but the northeastern province of Loei had been pegged as the most likely starting point.
“The project combines cycling, which is very popular right now, with our tourism campaign to explore destinations in 12 provinces,” Ms Kobkarn said.
The tentative course for the race will also take cyclists across the Mekong into Laos. Ms Kobkarn said it would be a friendly event between the two countries to mark the establishment of the Asean Economic Community at the end of the year.
Officals said Chiang Rai Province is often compared to regions in northern Spain where Tour de France race teams do their pre-season training at similar altitudes and temperatures during November to March.
Chiang Rai’s hill country with climbs reaching almost 1,000 metres and rolling hill circuits at altitudes of 400 to 500 metres, perfect terrain for race training.
The Thai Tourism Authority raised eyebrows in October for announcing that it was in talks with Tour de France organisers to host part of the iconic cycling event in Thailand. The news came as a surprise to the Amaury Sport Organisation, which organises the race. Its chairman, Jean-Etienne Amaury, promptly clarified that while there were indeed talks, they were only to host a separate, single-day event.
Ms Kobkarn said she had been unaware of the discussions, which her ministry was not involved in.