Izumi race director throws weight behind Portsmouth Tour de France campaign

Riders in the Pearl Izumi Tour Series on Thursday in Portsmouth

Picture: Sarah Standing (160816-3145)

Riders in the Pearl Izumi Tour Series on Thursday in Portsmouth Picture: Sarah Standing (160816-3145)

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THE organiser of Portsmouth’s hugely successful elite Pearl Izumi Tour Series has thrown his weight behind the city’s bid to host the Tour de France.

Izumi race director Mick Bennett said people embraced Thursday’s professional racing around a track in the city centre – and the region has more than proved it’s ready to bring on Le Tour’s Grand Depart in 2019.

Momentum is building behind The News campaign to bring the world’s biggest cycling race to Portsmouth, as city leaders reveal they are working on a business case to take to the Treasury for the funding needed to make it happen.

Mr Bennett said: ‘This week’s event has shown that there is a huge appetite for cycling in Portsmouth.

‘When the Tour de France visited Portsmouth in 1994 it was a huge success and it would be great to see it return.

‘With the growth of cycling in the UK over the past few years now, it would be a perfect time to see the Tour return and Portsmouth is an ideal place to host it.’

A business case will be presented to the Treasury outlining how Portsmouth would host the opening of Le Tour.

It is expected around £1.5m will be needed from the government to then submit a formal application to Le Tour’s organisers to bring the race to the region.

Portsmouth Tory council leader Councillor Donna Jones, who revealed the Izumi had pumped an extra £250,000 into the local economy and attracted 20,000 visitors, is going to witness the start of the 2016 Tour next month in Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy.

Cllr Jones said she planned to meet Le Tour director Christian Prudhomme and step up the case for why he must bring Le Tour to Portsmouth.

Outlining the current position over the bid, Cllr Jones said: ‘Discussions have been had with UK Sport and British Cycling.

‘A business case is being finalised with Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond, which will be presented to the Treasury, and I’m going to the Grand Depart in July, where I am hoping to meet Christian Prudhomme.

‘The next step is pinning the government down for this £1.5m to ensure we can work up a formal bid.’

Mr Bennett added: ‘Thursday night in Portsmouth was without doubt one of our best-ever Tour Series rounds and a fitting end to a fantastic 2016 series.’

PEARL IZUMI PICTURES

n Pages 32&33

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