Cycling: Dover's eyes on the Tour

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The Independent Online
PLANS for the Tour de France to make its second visit to Britain in 20 years will be unveiled in London in five weeks' time, but already Dover is claiming to be the 1994 start for the British stages, writes Robin Nicholl.

Last year Portsmouth announced their interest, but Sport for Television, the promotional company acting for the Tour organisers, insist that nothing is certain.

'Not every contract has been signed, but it's nearly all in place,' Martin Ayres, of Sport for Television, said. 'Meetings are taking place between ourselves and several local authorities, but we have agreed with the Tour that no comment will be made until the launch on 23 March.'

The Dover 'leak' expects the Tour to come through the Channel Tunnel, and return via ferry and air to Normandy or Brittany. Dover council has been discussing the preparations for several months with the Tour organisers.

The Tour's first visit in 1974 hit a country that was not sure what to expect, and its day in Devon was played out on an unopened stretch of trunk road near Plymouth without the usual Tour ambiance.

Britain has been educated since to the real race via television, and next year comes the big awakening as its boa constrictor of a convoy spreads for several miles over the roads of Kent and Hampshire.

The Tour has broken its borders many times, and last year started in Spain and toured through France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Italy as its contribution to European unity.