Cycling: London moves stage closer to hosting start of Tour de France

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The Independent Online

London's bid for the start of the Tour de France in 2007 has received a major boost after officials confirmed that announcements concerning England's capital and the race will be made in Paris and the UK over the next four weeks.

"A press conference will be held here in France on 24 January and another in London on 10 February," a Tour spokesman said. "Both involve London's Tour bid."

The statement represents a key step towards bringing the Tour de France to London for the first time in the race's 103-year history.

This is the first time the Tour has named specific dates for making an announcement about the capital's candidature.

It would also be an unheard of procedure for the Tour to hold a press conference simply to state that such a bid had been unsuccessful, although technically Lugano in Switzerland, as well as Rotterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands are also still in the running to host a stage.

Transport for London, which has put together London's dossier for a Tour start, has confirmed that announcements about the bid would be made "in late January or February".

If the bid does get the green light, as seems increasingly likely, the Tour would begin with a prologue event running past major London monuments.

A second stage would then take the riders back towards the coast via Tunbridge Wells and Folkestone before transferring to France through the Channel Tunnel.

The Tour has only visited England twice, but has received a very positive response in the past. The last time, in 1994, an estimated three million spectators lined the route on two stages running from Dover to Portsmouth via Brighton.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'

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