The Tour de France could return to the UK as early as 2014 with a Grand Départ in Edinburgh followed by up to four road stages that would take the race through England and Wales then towards one of the Channel ports for the transfer back to France.
Race organisers ASO are expected to make a decision on the proposals by the end of this year, with the Scottish-led bid among the favourites to host the world’s biggest annual sporting event in either 2014 or 2015.
The bid is backed by British Cycling, whose president Brian Cookson was at yesterday’s presentation in Paris of the route of the 2013 Tour, which will be the 100th edition of the race and one played out entirely within France’s borders.
Nowadays, the race starts outisde France every two or three years and even when it doesn't, typically there will be a brief excursion into a neighbouring country.
Cookson was in the French capital to wave the flag for Edinburgh’s bid, which faces competition from cities such as Barcelona and, closer to home, the Yorkshire region, which has lobbied hard, including during this year’s Tour, to be given the chance to host the race but which does not have the backing of the national governing body.
“The Scottish-based bid is in the advanced planning stage but it is a very positive, well thought of bid,” said Cookson, quoted on Telegraph.co.uk. “We believe the Tour de France will be coming back to Britain very soon. 2015 is the most likely but 2014 is possible.”
The race last visited the UK in 2007, when London hosted a spectacular prologue won by Fabian Cancellara ahead of a road stage from the capital to Canterbury, where David Millar spent much of the day on a solo break.
A crash and bike change 25 kilometres out meant Mark Cavendish, riding his first Tour, was unable to contest the finale – he’s made up for that since, with 23 stage wins to his name now – and Robbie McEwen took the sprint in the Kent cathedral city.
“The Grand Depart in London in 2007 is widely acknowledged as the best ever and we saw at the Olympics what kind of response the British public can produce,” Cookson continued.
“Britain will put on a really good show and ASO want to get back here when the time is right.
“The Scottish-based bid could be more than three stages because it is further from Scotland to the South East.
“You can speculate about the route. You start in Edinburgh and continue down the east side of Scotland, then you would think going down the east side of England and cutting across into Wales and then hopefully across to the South East.”
If Edinburgh were to host the start of the Tour in 2014, the Grand Départ would kick off a spectacular summer of sport for Scotland, with the Commonwealth Games starting in Glasgow towards the end of July.
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.