The Tour de France Starts in the UKAfter years of speculation, London was today (24 January) announced as the host for the start of the Tour de France in 2007, ahead of other hopefuls Denmark, Switzerland and Holland.
The Grand Depart will revert to the usual form of a prologue (last year it was a time trial) which will see the riders speeding past many of London's most famous landmarks on Saturday, 7 July. The following day the Tour peloton will head out of the capital city on stage one and wind its way through the countryside of southern England, before crossing the channel to begin racing again on home soil.
In its 102 year history the Tour de France has only visited Britain twice before, once in 1974 and again in 1994. The first occasion might, in fact, have been enough to put the riders off ever returning as they rolled up and down an unopened section of dual carriageway near Plymouth, with little crowd support. When the race returned 20 years later for two stages, the crowds were huge, thanks in part to our own Chris Boardman having won the prologue in Lille. But the visit of the race to the capital city will eclipse both of the previous encounters, so expect the turnout to be huge.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, who has long been a supporter of cycling in this country, and who was the driving force behind bringing the race to our shores once again said: "I am proud to announce that London has successfully bid to host the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in July 2007. Hosting the first stage of the legendary French cycle race will raise the profile of cycling in the capital, attract visitors and promote the capital as a venue for international sporting events. Cycling in the capital is growing faster than anywhere else in Europe. I want London to become a world-class cycling city and Transport for London has increased investment in cycling from ¶£5.5 million in 2000, to ¶£24 million this year."
The official launch of the event will be held in London on 9 February and will see all of the organisational top brass in attendance, no doubt walking round the course tutting loudly at the number of potholes and hoping they'll be filled in before the world's cycling elite arrive to do battle against the clock next year.