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Richard Moore:

Tour de Scotland?

Will Le Tour be starting in Scotland soon?

Richard Moore Posted 16th May 2012 view comments

The Tour de France is renowned as the ultimate test of endurance, but never mind riding it. Bidding to host the thing might actually be tougher.

On Wednesday Scotland's national events agency confirmed a bid to host the Grand Départ in 2017, in conjunction with partners in England and Wales. If they are successful, it will mark the culmination of a ten-year project.

Could the tour route be heading for Scotland?

Could the tour route be heading for Scotland?

It was in October 2007 that Paul Bush, EventScotland's chief operating officer, who was in Paris for the Rugby World Cup, paid a visit to ASO, the Tour organisers.

There, he met Christian Prudhomme, the Tour director, and floated the possibility of the Tour starting in Scotland. It was just three months after the Tour's last visit to Britain, with the London Grand Départ such a success that Prudhomme declared it "inconceivable" that the race would not return.

The major change from the initial plan is the involvement of England and Wales. But it makes logisitical and practical sense, reducing the journey back to France, and keeping the Tour on British roads for as many days as possible

Richard Moore
Quotes of the week

Yet, despite this commitment to London (which seems to have waned since Boris Johnson took over from Ken Livingstone as mayor), he reacted enthusiastically to Bush's suggestion. In fact, it was Prudhomme himself who went public with the information, letting it slip two months after his meeting with Bush that Scotland (along with several other places, including some, like Japan, almost certainly unrealistic) had declared an interest.

Scepticism

There was some scepticism. Was Prudhomme stirring the pot, so to speak - drumming up interest elsewhere by reeling off the names of cities and countries who were courting his event? Perhaps not. When asked about the possibility of a "Tour de France en Ecosse" in 2008, he responded with characteristic exuberance and optimism.

Scotland's bid has also been helped by the commitment and tenacity of Bush, whose enthusiasm for the Tour was sparked by his visit to London, where he witnessed the extraordinary support and atmosphere the race generated around the prologue time trial on the Saturday, then again on the road to Canterbury the next day.

Bush's remit is to bring major events to Scotland, but sport is his calling card - he has been Chef de Mission for the Scottish team at the Commonwealth Games and he was heavily involved in Glasgow's successful bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup in the same year. But he has described the Tour as "the next jewel in the crown."

In 2010, after several more visits to (and long lunches in) the ASO offices in Paris, he travelled to Rotterdam for the Grand Départ. He was struck again by the "Olympic feel" to the Tour, and confirmed that he was "putting a proposal to them to bring the Tour to Scotland in the next ten years."

And now comes the announcement. The major change from the initial plan is the involvement of England and Wales. But it makes logisitical and practical sense, reducing the journey back to France, and keeping the Tour on British roads for as many days as possible. It is also significant that the bid now has the public support of British Cycling, thus ruling out any competing bids from London or Yorkshire, who also expressed an interest.

Next, discussion will turn to the proposed itinerary. But how about a prologue in Edinburgh finishing at the castle, a first road stage from Dumfries (close to where the bicycle was invented by Kirkpatrick Macmillan) to Manchester (the home of British Cycling), and a second road stage from Nottingham (home of Raleigh) to Cardiff?

And, if we're pushing our luck, we might also suggest a third road stage from Cardiff to London, with the riders and their entourage catching the Eurostar to Lille: an 80-minute journey, and half the distance of the longest transfer on this year's race.

Twitter.com/richardmoore73

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