The Tour de France could be heading back to Portsmouth for the second time in the race's history under plans revealed by the leader of the Hampshire city’s council for a joint bid with twin city Caen in Normandy and shipping line Britanny Ferries.
According to Portsmouth News, preliminary discussions have already been held about bidding to host part of the 2018 edition of the race, which visited the city in 1994.
In that year, Portsmouth hosted the start and finish of Stage 5, the second of two stages on the south coast, with the previous day seeing the peloton ride from Dover to Brighton.
The race transferred onto British soil via the newly opened Channel Tunnel, with Brittany Ferries the official partner for the sea transfer back to the French port of St Malo.
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, told Portsmouth news: “It would bring millions to Portsmouth and project images of Portsmouth around the world.
“It will reinforce confidence that Portsmouth is a changing place that’s aiming really high and has high aspirations for itself.
“What we need to be doing is sending a message to local businesses and any business thinking of relocating that Portsmouth is the place to be.
She continued: “I would expect given the success of the Tour de France that visitor numbers would be higher on the south coast as we are only a few hours away from France.
“I would expect the boost to the local economy would be well in excess of £100 million.”
That’s the same amount that Yorkshire was expecting to benefit from through hosting last year’s Grand Départ, suggesting securing the opening days of the race is Portsmouth’s target.
Portsmouth will be hosting America’s Cup World Series yacht racing over the next two years, and Councillor Jones added: “This would be another exciting event in our calendar.”
Brittany Ferries group commercial director, Mike Bevens, said: “We’ve enjoyed positive early discussions with Portsmouth City Council regarding working together and the feasibility of bringing the Tour de France to Portsmouth.
“We are looking forward to taking these discussions further and assessing the viability of this project.
“Brittany Ferries has a long association of working with this iconic race; when it last came to Portsmouth in 1994 we had the honour of being the official sea carrier.
“The British love affair with race cycling is at an all-time high following the London Olympics and 2014 Tour stages in the north of England and London.
‘We think it’s high time that the race returned to Portsmouth and look forward to playing our part.”
Councillor Jones said she believed that bringing the race back to Portsmouth could also help boost cycling as a means of transport there.
“It’s about trying to make Portsmouth an accessible city from a cycling perspective,” she explained.
“It’s about helping people’s health and getting them fitter, easing congestion and improving the air quality and bringing down pollution levels.
“Having the Tour de France here, I can see people who haven’t cycled for 30 years going out on their bikes because of how inspired they would be by this amazing event.”
According to Portsmouth News, the council will hold meetings with its opposite numbers in Caen and Brittany Ferries in the coming weeks to draw up detailed proposals including a cost-benefit analysis before presenting a preliminary bid to race organisers, ASO.
The success of last year’s Tour de France has led to renewed interest elsewhere in the UK to bringing the race back here.
Edinburgh – which lost out to Yorkshire in staging the start of last year’s race – is looking at bidding again, while Newcastle and Gateshead councils have both said they would back a bid from the north east of England.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.