Tour de France 2007 British Connection Launched
9th of February, 2006; The Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, LondonLarry Hickmott reports for British Cycling
In a gala presentation today at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, London, the route for the start of the Tour de France was unveiled to around 600 invited guests and the media from around the World. In short, the Tour de France will spend three days in Britain and of those, two days will include stages of the race.
The Tour's London visit will begin with a formal ceremony on Friday the 6th of July 2007 where the competing teams will be presented to the public. This will happen in Trafalgar Square, quite a stunning backdrop to such an event. The following day, Saturday 7th of July, the Prologue (an individual time trial) takes place on July 7 where the capital will come to a standstill as the race over 8 kilometres passes such iconic landmarks as Downing Street, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Wellington Arch and Hyde Park.
The time trial to decide who wears the first Yellow jersey is followed on Sunday 8th July by the first road stage of the 2007 Tour de France, starting from London and taking in the roads around Kent. Not surprisingly, the organisers of the Tour's visit to London and Kent are expecting the cycle race to encourage more people to turn to pedal power. With the World's media spotlighting the capital and the nearby county of Kent, The Tour de France 'Grand Depart' is an opportunity to showcase London and Kent as cycling friendly areas.
When British Cycling spoke to the Tour de France's Jean-Marie Leblanc (right) after the presentation, he explained "a lot of people follow the Tour de France around the World and we are very proud to be organising, in 2007, this race between two great prestigious capitals in Europe: London and Paris. We are very happy to be received so warmly by Ken Livingston and the staff of Transport for London. We know it will be successful thanks to the prestige of both London and Paris."
British Cycling and le Tour
A partner with Transport for London and other key stakeholders helping to bring the Tour to London was British Cycling. Prior to the announcement of London being successful in its bid for the Tour start, British Cycling were quietly involved in working with Transport for London and their vision for the Tour start, on a bid to UK Sport whose support has helped to bring the event to the capital.Now it's a reality, British Cycling is now looking ahead by working with Transport for London, Sport England, and UK Sport to capitalise on this major event. This work includes trying to give more opportunities for young people via an expanded Go-Ride programme, so they have access to coaching in schools and community based clubs as well as giving older cyclists and their families the chance to participate in both formal and informal cycling events.To achieve this, British Cycling is working with the key stake holders for the London Tour start, to provide the impetus for a programme of quality events associated with the coming of the Tour de France. Events where people of all ages can turn up and participate and in return get that same feeling of excitement that spread around the cycling world after the announcement the Tour was coming. An excitement that will stay with them long after the Tour has left London.
Transport for London says that cycling in London has doubled in the past five years and they are investing increasing amounts into the cycling infrastructure, and cycling promotion and training. In 2000/1 the investment was £5.5 million and this has grown to £24 million for 2006/7.
As well as the expected promotional opportunities for cycling, the Tour de France's British visit is also expected to have many other benefits, as it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, with more than 2 million spectators expected to watch the event at the road side. In financial terms, the expected return is said to be in the region of £70 million being brought in to the UK economy over the three days.The Tour de France, which began in 1903, is the most famous cycling race of all, and British riders we have spoken to have admitted that one stage win in that race can make an otherwise winless season a success. It is watched by as many as 15 million people on the road side every year with an estimated 2 billion watching on Television over the three weeks.
THE ROUTE IN DETAIL
Riders in the 2007 Tour de France will spend two days racing in Britain beginning with the Prologue on Saturday, 7th of July and then on Sunday, the 8th of July, the first road stage of the 2007 Tour de France, taking in the roads around Kent. Tour de France 2007 Route in Detail >>>>
WHAT THE BRITS THINK OF THE TOUR COMING TO LONDON
With so many former Tour de France riders floating about at the launch, it was indeed a reunion of the riders who have dared to tackle the toughest stage race in the World. Before the presentation, British Cycling spoke to many of the VIPs such as Bradley Wiggins who can't believe his luck to have the prologue in his home town, Barry Hoban who wishes he was still riding, Colin Lewis, Adrian Timmis, David Duffield and a rider who is famous for his Tour de France exploits and victories, Chris Boardman.
Mini 'Tour de France' Interviews
Chris Boardman (three time prologue stage winner) >>>> Go
Bradley Wiggins (Olympic Gold medallist and Prologue specialist) >>>> Go
Adrian Timmis, Colin Lewis, Barry Hoban and David Duffield >>>> Go
THE CEREMONY FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE TOUR COMING TO BRITAIN
The event within the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre kicked off with an introduction from BBC's Simon Brotherton who was followed on stage by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingston. Following a promotional film, there was then rapturous applause for a man well known for his association with the Tour, Jean-Marie Leblanc. More film about the Tour then followed, introduced by Christian Prudhomme, Director of Cycling at ASO, before a symbolic signing of the Grand Depart agreement with the Mayor of London, Jean-Marie Leblanc and Christian Prudhomme. This prompted the setting off of hundreds of camera flashguns as photographers recorded the event for media outlets around the world.
The presentation also made the point of showing footage of some of the British riders who have made their name in the Tour such as Chris Boardman and Sean Yates.
Come question time where Ken Livingstone, Jean-Marie Leblanc, Christian Prudhomme and Sir Robert Worcester (Deputy Lieutenant of Kent) faced questions from the press, the mood from the assembled journalists came across as rather negative with only one brave woman standing up and congratulating on the people on stage for the significance of their achievement.
That said, for all the negative questions Ken Livingstone was given, he gave back as good as he got and in such a lighted hearted manner that he was able to bring a touch of humour to the proceedings. One such quip when asked about the choosing of the route for the prologue, was, with tongue firmly in cheek, with my rich history in professional cycling, we chose the route ...”.
The mayor also touched on how the event would also ensure those who died last July would never be forgotten saying that the best way to commemorate those who died was to promote an event that brought people from around the World to the British capital.
Le Tour Fact: 2007 will be the third time the Tour de France has come to Britain. The first was in 1974 and a stage at Plymouth. Then, 20 years later, it returned for two stages in the south east of the country which saw record crowds lining the route for the race.
Transport for London in association with British Cycling, are looking for 1,000 route marshals to help out in July 2007. To learn more, go to www.tourdefrancelondon.com