Tour de France cycling expert fears Portsmouth faces ‘uphill struggle’ for government funding

Yorkshire hosted the opening stage of the Tour de France in 2014
Yorkshire hosted the opening stage of the Tour de France in 2014

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CYCLING officials fear the prime minister’s decision to fund Yorkshire’s bid to stage a premier cycling race is a blow to Portsmouth’s Tour de France aspirations.

Theresa May has revealed £24m will be set aside to ensure Yorkshire can host the UCI 2019 Road World Championships.

It’s great that once again, Britain is pitching to host such a prestigious major cycling event, but as I revealed earlier this year, I fear this decision could make obtaining government backing for Portsmouth’s TdF 2019 Grand Départ an uphill struggle.

Richard Gorman

Yet Portsmouth leaders are also hoping Whitehall will hand over £2m so they can draw up an ambitious application to stage Le Tour’s Grand Depart in the same year, to tie in with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Tory culture boss for Portsmouth, Cllr Linda Symes, believes the decision to help Yorkshire won’t hamper the city, as Team GB’s success at the Olympics has captured the nation’s attention.

But others are sceptical – putting more pressure on Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond who is driving the city’s campaign to make a strong case for funding.

Richard Gorman, who provided backing for Team CSC Saxo Bank in the 2008 Tour, said: ‘The announcement last week by Theresa May of her backing for Yorkshire’s bid for the UCI 2019 Road World Championships is a bittersweet pill for the south’s cycling fans.

‘It’s great that once again, Britain is pitching to host such a prestigious major cycling event, but as I revealed earlier this year, I fear this decision could make obtaining government backing for Portsmouth’s TdF 2019 Grand Départ an uphill struggle – but then again, who knows, I may be premature to second guess our new government.

‘It may well be that the success of Team GB’s cyclists in Rio and Chris Froome’s third TdF victory will be the catalyst for even more investment in cycling – at both ends of the country.

‘And with 2019 likely to be Britain’s first year post-Brexit, maybe a highly-visible demonstration of Anglo-French relations would be no bad thing, either.’

But Mr Gorman, who attended the finals of the Pearl Izumi Tour Series in Portsmouth, believes the city shouldn’t give up hope of staging Le Tour in later years if it misses out on funding for 2019. He said: ‘Even if despite their great efforts in the coming weeks, Portsmouth‘s MPs fail to secure backing for a 2019 bid, there’s absolutely nothing to stop it going ahead for 2020 or 2021. It would just be a shame to lose the connection with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

‘I remain convinced Portsmouth will host the Tdf again, it’s not a question of if, just a question of when.’

As reported, Cllr Linda Symes and senior colleagues are heading to France next month to talk about a potential joint bid to stage Le Tour with Caen, which Portsmouth is twinned with.