CALLS to bring the Tour de France to Portsmouth have been backed by a major ferry firm, which says it is ready to help the city host a Grand Départ.
As the Tour de France prepares to head south from the region of La Manche in Normandy following this year’s Grand Départ, cross-channel company Brittany Ferries reasserted its commitment to carry the tour if the event comes to Portsmouth.
The call comes following Mark Cavendish’s first stage victory, his 27th stage win in total and first opportunity to wear the coveted yellow jersey.
It also follows calls for a Portsmouth Grand Départ made by Portsmouth City Council, which has been backed by The News.
Brittany Ferries group commercial director Mike Bevens said: ‘Brittany Ferries was delighted to partner this year’s Grand Depart which left Le Mont-Saint-Michel on July 2, and we very much hope Portsmouth will be the base for the event, perhaps in 2019.
‘The popularity of services to Cherbourg, St Malo and Caen this year has demonstrated an appetite for this magnificent event among British cycling fans.
‘We have the space and the ships to return the tour to France after a British debut.
‘Our message is clear: Brittany Ferries is ready, flexible and we’re all set to support Portsmouth.’
Mr Bevens said that regular sailings to Cherbourg from Poole and Portsmouth, as well as departures to St Malo and Caen, have been particularly busy during this weekend’s racing.
On July 3, Brittany Ferries’ fast ferry Normandie Express and Bretagne which sails to St Malo were rescheduled to provide a full day trip experience as stage two headed for a finale in Cherbourg.
Barfleur’s evening departure from Cherbourg to Poole was also extended.
As reported yesterday, culture boss councillor Linda Symes said it was ‘absolutely crucial’ that the government awards the £2m needed to the council so it can draw up a bid.
She said: ‘We are very enthusiastic about Portsmouth’s bid. But if we don’t have the money, we don’t have the ability to do it, which is why it’s crucial.’
Cllr Symes, joined by senior officer Claire Looney, watched the beginning of the 2016 Le Tour this weekend in Le Mont-Saint-Michel.
The News has been running the Bring on Le Tour campaign, asking people to email their support to firstname.lastname@example.org so it can present them to director of Le Tour, Christian Prudhomme.