Plans being drawn up to bring Tour de France back to Devon?
After Yorkshire's Grand Depart success, business leaders explore prospect of South West bid
Plans are being considered for a bid to get the Tour de France to return to Devon, which in 1974 hosted one of the more bizarre stages of the race’s history when cyclists disembarked from a ferry, rode a stage up and down the A38 Plympton bypass then got back on the boat to head back to Brittany.
According to the Western Morning News, local business chiefs, inspired by the success of Yorkshire’s bid to host next year’s Grand Départ as well as the county’s regular hosting of stages of the Tour of Britain, are beginning to explore how they would go about raising the estimated £2 million it would take to bring the race back to Devon.
The newspaper reports that today, Tim Jones, chairman of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, will inform his fellow board members that there has "never been a better time" to consider launching a bid.
A successful bid would be the first time the 'peloton' of elite riders has competed on Devon's roads since the race interrupted its progress through Brittany in 1974 for a 102-mile leg near Plymouth.
According to Ron Keegan, vice-president of Mid Devon Cycling Club, whose members include Tour of Britain champion Jon Tiernan-Locke, now with Team Sky, the number of fans who turned out for that 164km stage in 1974, won by the Dutch rider Henk Poppe, was no more than 20,000.
After explaining to the Western Morning News that the Tour often starts outside France – foreign Grand Départs take place every two or three years these days – he said: "We would probably be looking at an opening time trial, or prologue, finishing somewhere like the Hoe in Plymouth with maybe a longer stage around Dartmoor.
"I would love to see it happen though I can't see it coming back to Britain inside five or six years."
According to the newspaper, Devon County Council has already spoken to British Cycling regarding the prospect of hosting the Tour at some point, but says the cost of doing so is "far more considerable" than the figure of £2 million cited – a figure of £4 million has been bandied about as helping Yorkshire secure the 2014 Grand Départ.
Cabinet member Stuart Hughes commented: "If private sector businesses are keen to be involved with cycling, then we would welcome having them on board and contributing financially to help bring The Tour of Britain back to Devon this year."
If any bid from Devon did go ahead, it would face stiff competition from elsewhere to stage the race.
Organisers of the unsuccessful Scottish-led bid that missed out to Yorkshire have reportedly been told that a repeat bid further down the line might meet with favour, but a number of cities and regions throughout Europe have also expressed an interest in hosting the race, including Barcelona, the other unsuccessful bidder for next year.