CYCLING groups have backed Portsmouth’s bold hopes of clinching £2m from the government to help it stage the Tour de France.
City council bosses have filed a 32-page business case to Whitehall promoting the city and highlighting the prospect of up to £100m being pumped into the local economy – should Portsmouth get to host Le Tour’s Grand Depart.
It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity, we just need to get all stakeholders involved.Guy Watson, head coach of Portsmouth School of Cycling Racing
Portsmouth City Council has asked the department for culture, media and sport for £2m so it can prepare a bid to Le Tour bosses outlining why it should put on the spectacle’s opening leg in 2019 –the same year as the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
City cycling leaders say they are excited by all the prospects – and have called for as many local organisations to band together and celebrate the occasion should it go ahead.
Guy Watson, head coach of Portsmouth School of Cycling Racing, who had an input in the business plan, said: ‘It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity, we just need to get all stakeholders involved.
‘In other parts of Europe where they have held the start of Le Tour, it’s done properly and everyone benefits.
‘The roads are resurfaced in the run-up to the event, so it would be good to get Hampshire County Council on board with things like that, and other partners like the Chamber of Commerce. That way we spend the money once, but get three or four benefits from it.’
Mr Watson said the proposed Le Tour route could be used by local families in the build-up to the launch and residents could be urged to hold street parties so they don’t feel left out – and aren’t left frustrated when road closures are in place. Others hope grass-roots cycling clubs will not be forgotten – and say they are still concerned that the floodlights at the Mountbatten Centre where teams train are still out of use.
The council and Mountbatten operators Parkwood have said they are now working up a plan.
Roger De Vere, secretary of Fareham Wheelers Cycling Club, said: ‘The idea is great and I am sure it will do a lot for the profile of cycling. The problem we are facing is the lack of funding in grass-roots cycling in Portsmouth, and the Mountbatten issue.’