Cycling: Tour chiefs quash London start hopes

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The Independent Online

British hopes that cycling's blue riband event, the Tour de France, could start in London in the near future have been given short shrift by the race organisers.

Following recent reports in the British press, the race director, Jean-Marie Leblanc, said: "There is zero possibility of the Tour de France having a Grand Départ in London in 2006 - or before. We have already decided on French starts for the Tour for both 2005 and 2006, so the absolute earliest for London would be in 2007."

Leblanc did concede that "London's bid is very attractive and very well put together and, personally, I like it a lot".

London would face fierce competition for the Grand Départ 2007 from Dutch, Swiss and German cities for a Tour start in four years. In 2004, the race will start in Liège, Belgium.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly