Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has called on Portsmouth to show its passion for cycling as the city steps up its bid to host the Grand Depart.
And to help prove why the south coast should stage the world-famous event, The News today launches its Bring On Le Tour campaign to help the bid succeed.
Portsmouth wants to host the opening stage of the event in 2019 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
Council leaders are trying to woo Tour de France bosses, including Mr Prudhomme, in a joint bid with twin city Caen.
Mr Prudhomme has confirmed he will come to Portsmouth to see what the city has to offer.
And the man who has a key say on where Le Tour is staged has called on people in the area to show their desire for the event.
Of course I’d be interested in a visit to Portsmouth – it’s just a question of agendaChristian Prudhomme
A week after it was revealed the Tour Series would coming to Portsmouth this summer, Mr Prudhomme told The News: ‘It’s a question of passion. From the very first moment, you know if the people have a passion for cycling and for Le Tour.
‘England is a country with a passion for cycling and for Le Tour. We were very impressed with all the people and all the passion. People were on their bikes in the UK, in London for example, much more than in Paris.
‘In 2014 the plan was not to start in Yorkshire, the plan was for 2016 or 2017, but the reason was because of Bradley Wiggins’ victory.
‘Our answer after that was to start the Tour as soon as possible from the UK.’
Mr Prudhomme, who is directing his 10th Tour de France this year, added: ‘We have a bid from Portsmouth and Gary Verity wants to have a second Grand Depart from Yorkshire.
‘It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when but I don’t know right now.
‘We have many bids from France and abroad. I’ve just received two letters, they want us to go to Portsmouth.
‘I like the idea of the D-Day anniversary. It’s important there are links beyond cycling with people. Of course I’d be interested in a visit to Portsmouth – it’s just a question of agenda. We will go there to see it. I went there as a student in the summer of 1980 and I liked it.’
To prove to Mr Prudhomme why Portsmouth is the right choice, we want readers to show their support for the bid. To find out how, see the panel below.
Following the phenomenal success of the Tour de France stages in Yorkshire in 2014, there is an appetite to bring it back to the UK.
Portsmouth’s bid envisages elite cyclists riding from the city to the South Downs, finishing at the seafront and then crossing the Channel to the beaches of Normandy.
It would be tied in with the D-Day commemorations, giving Le Tour an added significance.
Mr Prudhomme spoke to The News at the announcement this week of Brittany Ferries’ sponsorship of this year’s Grand Depart in Manche, Normandy.
Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Donna Jones, is leading the bid, which is still in the early stages.
Cllr Jones has already said the bid could cost up to £1.5m, but it is hoped a major financial backer will bear the costs.
And she said public support was absolutely ‘key’ to boosting the city’s chances, as organisers will have to show there is a clear interest in the sport and prove it has the capacity to host the world’s biggest cycling event.
Cllr Jones said: ‘For residents who are interested in cycling or active cyclists, this is an inspiration for them, and for those residents not into cycling, but want Portsmouth to prosper as a city and for Portsmouth to recognised as one of the most recognised places in and outside of the UK, this is essential.
‘Having the public support for this competition is key to funding the bid and taking it to the next level.
‘It’s great news that the director of the Tour de France wants to visit the area. I have been in contact with the event team over the last six months, and one of the things he was interested in was the historic connections between here and Normandy.’
Le Tour last came through Portsmouth in 1994, when it became the first city outside Paris to host the start and finish of a leg of the race.
‘If it did come here, then it would be massive’
EXCITEMENT is building over Portsmouth’s bid to host the Tour de France.
Cyclists from across the city have united in their support of the effort, which they say will give an enormous boost to their sport.
Roger de Vere is the secretary of the Fareham Wheelers cycling club, and has watched numerous stages of the international cycling competition.
He said cycling enthusiasts across the city would be thrilled if the Tour de France came to Portsmouth.
He said: ‘This would be massive for the city and for cycling. If it comes to Portsmouth we would be delighted because it would give a refocus to cycling after the Olympics.’
He said the event could boost the sport not just across Portsmouth but the entire region, with clubs benefitting from the competition.
He added: ‘I’ve been to many Tour de France stages and the excitement is just incredible.
‘Even though it’s all over in a flash, it’s the build-up of it all – the helicopters, TV, everything, that makes it special.’
Mark Williams is the road and track secretary of Portsmouth North End Cycling Club, as well as the regional secretary for British Cycling south.
He claimed the event could lead to a surge in funding for cycling facilities in the city.
‘It would be a fantastic boost, not only to raise the profile of cycling, but it would also bring extra revenue into the city,’ he said.
Portsmouth Lib Dem culture spokesman Cllr Lee Hunt said securing Le Tour would be another step towards the city’s bid to become a world-class sporting destination.
Cllr Hunt said: ‘If it did come here, then it would be massive. Securing world-class sporting attractions like this is something the city is striving to have more of, and in all the strategies we have, we want to become the focus for world-class sporting events.
‘And that means more jobs and improved wellbeing.
‘Along with the America’s Cup and the Great South Run, it would make a fantastic trio of world-class attractions for the city to be known for.
‘The more the city is known, the more worldwide attention we would receive, like we already have done with the Mary Rose Museum, the Historic Dockyard and the D-Day Museum.’
What happens next?
PORTSMOUTH City Council, with the help of the government, wants to prepare a bid to the organisers of the world’s greatest cycling race to bring the opening leg to Portsmouth in 2019 – the same year as the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
It is hoped Tour bosses will see the attraction of elite cyclists riding from the city through to the South Downs before heading to the beaches of Normandy where troops – including many from this area – landed.
Portsmouth Tory council leader Cllr Jones has been leading the proposal with Portsmouth’s twin city of Caen in France.
The cost of drawing up a bid to event organisers would cost about £1.5m, and the government would be called upon to contribute a lot of the finances. Meetings are to be arranged over the request with culture secretary John Whittingdale.
The bulk of the money would need to be spent on drafting in a team of expert consultants who would draw up a huge plan detailing exactly how the city would host the race and why it would be a massive success.
They would also help work on all aspects of Le Tour; such as the road layout, road safety, traffic management plans, police management, health, hotel operators, parking, park-and-ride schemes, potential advertising space for sponsors and other companies, while also working with Visit England and Visit Britain.
How you can help
AS PART of The News’ Bring On Le Tour campaign, we want you to show the passion to bring the great event to Portsmouth.
Send us an e-mail to support the bid. We will then collate all entries and present them to Christian Prudhomme to prove why the Tour de France should come to the south coast.
You can also spread the word about our campaign on Facebook or on Twitter, using the hashtag #tourdepompey
To e-mail us, please use the subject heading ‘BRING ON LE TOUR’, including your name and address and, if you’d like, why we should host the event. Send your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org