Britain's David Millar has said that the London prologue stage of the Tour de France - formally confirmed yesterday as starting in the capital in July 2007 - "will be the main aim of the rest of my career".
The 29-year-old Scot said: "It's going to be huge, absolutely massive - the level of interest, everything. It can only be great news for British cycling and compared with 10 years ago, when the race last came to England, our federation has the resources now and the schemes all in place to exploit the opportunity a lot better."
Currently under a ban for drug use, Millar's first comeback event will be the 2006 Tour prologue in Strasbourg. "Although I'll be going for that 100 per cent as well, London will be the chance of a lifetime," he said.
Prologues have always been Millar's speciality: in 2000 he won the Tour's opening time trial. He was also narrowly beaten in 2003 in the Paris prologue in the Tour's centenary year.
While Millar will be one of the favourites, he will have another English rider as a top rival: the Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins is also targeting the London prologue.
Speaking at his weekly press conference, London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, announced that there would be an opening prologue in London on 7 July and a further stage in England taking the race back towards France the next day.
Livingstone was short on detail, which will be revealed in early February when the deal is formally signed, but the prologue is believed to be based in and around the Mall, with a start and finish in Trafalgar Square.
The first proper stage will head through Kent, possibly via Tunbridge Wells and Folkstone before the race transfers to France.
The Tour has never started in London before, though it has visited southern England twice: in 1994, around three million people turned out to cheer on the riders on two stages through Surrey and Hampshire.
Questioned about the cost of such a high-profile event, Livingstone estimated the price of hosting the Tour would be around £1.5m. But he compared that with the cost of staging a Formula One race at £30m to £60m.
The Tour will also act as a dress rehearsal in certain aspects for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Livingstone said it would be "a great opportunity for us to show we can put on a world-class sporting event".Reuse content