THE man in charge of an elite cycling team featuring British rider Mark Cavendish says Portsmouth would be the perfect host for the opening of the 2019 Tour de France.
Brian Smith, general manager of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, has rallied behind the bid to bring the sporting spectacle to the city – and says he can’t think of anywhere better in the UK for Le Tour’s professional cyclists to race.
For that one day, Portsmouth would be the theatre and it’s perfectly set to have the first stage, especially because of its easy access to France.Brian Smith, general manager of Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka
Mr Smith believes multi-world champion Cavendish – who has also won 26 Tour stages and is regarded one of the best of all time – could be swayed to continue in the team and ride along Portsmouth’s shores.
Speaking exclusively to The News, Mr Smith said: ‘For that one day, Portsmouth would be the theatre and it’s perfectly set to have the first stage, especially because of its easy access to France.
‘You have also got access to one of the biggest communities in Britain; London.
‘And given the number of people that Le Tour attracts, millions would line the roadside.
‘Portsmouth would be the perfect amphitheatre for that.
‘I have got British riders in my team, such as Mark Cavendish, and I was in Yorkshire when he crashed in the first stage.
‘I know he would like to try and win the stage, and would like to ride in Britain again.
‘For Mark, in his lifetime, to be able to try and win a stage of the Tour de France in Portsmouth, after crashing out of the race in Yorkshire, to give him that opportunity, he would cherish that.’
Asked what the atmosphere is like at Le Tour, the TV Eurosport commentator said: ‘You don’t realise what it is like until you are there.
‘The atmosphere is incredible. It’s a show, not just for the riders, but for the public.
‘And it’s a show that goes on for two to three days.’
As reported, Portsmouth’s leaders now have to arrange a meeting with the Treasury and discuss whether the government can pay the necessary funds needed to draw up a bid to stage the 2019 Grand Depart.
Tory council leader, Councillor Donna Jones, has already made it clear that no council money will be poured into the project.
An application to Tour bosses is expected to cost up to £2m, and staging the spectacle could see the bill soar to £30m – similar to the costs in Yorkshire when it staged the Tour in 2014.