LEADERS of a French city rallying behind Portsmouth’s efforts to stage the Tour de France have declared – let’s make history together and put on a truly global spectacle.
Caen, which is twinned with Portsmouth, wants to help the city put together an ambitious bid to the bosses of the world’s greatest cycling race to stage Le Tour’s Grand Depart across the Solent in 2019.
Caen, the capital of northern France’s Lower Normandy region, believes working on a bid with Portsmouth and providing professional expertise would boost economic ties between the regions.
The link-up would also hold huge significance as it would mark the first time in history two cities from different countries have come together to mount an official bid to stage the tour.
As revealed by The News, the bid will be strengthened by the proposal to host the opening days of the 105th edition of the race on either side of the English Channel to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings
Yet to make that a reality, the UK government must award Portsmouth – which wants to lead the bid – £2m to fund a comprehensive application to Le Tour organisers outlining why it is the perfect place for elite riders to set off on the epic race, as Yorkshire did in 2014.
This is also a historic moment; because it’s the first time two cities are looking to put in a bid together for the Tour de France. We want to make history with Portsmouth and make this happen.Mayor of Caen, Joël Bruneau
Speaking to The News, the Mayor of Caen, Joël Bruneau, urged Whitehall to see the magnitude and importance of providing the necessary funds to get the vision off the ground.
And he believes the prospect of hosting the spectacle in the same years as the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings will play a key role.
Mr Bruneau said: ‘Portsmouth has fantastic experience of putting on big events, like the America’s Cup, and it’s a beautiful place. We would love to work with the city on a bid for the Grand Depart, because of the economic significance, but also because it is beautiful.
‘We are growing economies, and there is huge significance with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
‘This is also a historic moment; because it’s the first time two cities are looking to put in a bid together for the Tour de France.
‘We want to make history with Portsmouth and make this happen.
‘A French town like ours cannot influence the UK government over the situation with funding, but we will continue to work with the city council, the council leader, Donna Jones, and its MPs, to try to ensure we can get that funding.
‘I think the special, symbolic relationship between Portsmouth and Caen will play a key role.
‘And after Brexit, we are still together and it is not the end of that relationship.’
It comes after The News launched our Bring on Le Tour campaign, and as global interest in the race grows, especially in the UK after Britain’s Chris Froome won a third Tour title on Sunday.
Councillor Donna Jones says she is awaiting to hear whether Tour boss Christian Prudhomme will pay a visit to Portsmouth this summer to see how Le Tour could be staged.
The aspiration is for riders to set off from Portsmouth and ride up to West Sussex and through the South Downs, before returning back to the city and setting off to France.
They would then ride along the beaches of Normandy, where troops on D-Day landed.
Cllr Jones said: ‘Portsmouth has a history of pushing the boundaries and setting the path for the future, and this would be the first time ever, in the history of the Tour de France, two cities from two different countries have put together a bid to host the Grand Depart.
‘Portsmouth has been twinned with Caen since 1987. We are hopeful of hosting the Grand Depart in 2019, and the Mayor of Caen and I have written to Christian Prudhomme asking him to come to our respective cities so we can discuss with him our aspiration to host one of the biggest sporting attractions in the world.’
Portsmouth previously hosted the Tour de France in 1994 when it was the location of both the start and finish of stage five.
Tour funding dossier almost ready for government
THE MP for Portsmouth South says a business case urging the government to fund Portsmouth’s Tour de France bid is being sent up to Westminster ‘in the next week’.
Flick Drummond said the final details of the plan – which includes exactly how much money is needed, how much money could be generated for the local and national economy should Portsmouth stage Le Tour, and the significance of Le Tour coming back to Britain in the same year as the anniversary of D-Day – is being worked on.
The dossier – which has mostly been put together by Portsmouth City Council for Mrs Drummond – will then be taken to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport before a decision is made whether to fund the deal.
Mrs Drummond said: ‘We are going to send it off in the next week, and we’re going to link it in with Chris Froome winning. In terms of the business case, I want all of the figures as we need to do this absolutely right.
‘I can’t get something in that’s not absolutely watertight.
‘I am definitely going ahead with this and pushing it forward.’
Mrs Drummond also praised the strength of The News’ Bring On Le Tour campaign, which launched after Tour boss Christian Prudhomme called on the people of Portsmouth to show their passion for the cycling spectacle.
Scores of readers have written to The News highlighting why they would love to see Le Tour come to the region.
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