SCOTLAND lost out to Yorkshire in its bid to host the start of next year’s Tour de France because of asking for four days rather than three, the organiser of the world’s biggest cycle race has confirmed.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme remains keen to bring the prestigious Grand Départ to Scotland and has told EventScotland he would consider a new four-day bid on the condition it includes a showcase stage in Edinburgh.
“It was a close contest between Yorkshire and Scotland and I hope [Scotland] still want the Tour,” Prudhomme said.
“Edinburgh is a magnificent city. You can do something marvellous. But four days was too long. In the history of the Tour, it is only a maximum of three days abroad.”
Paul Bush, chief operating officer of EventScotland, who led the bid, said: “Despite the disappointment of losing out to Yorkshire this time it doesn’t alter our aspiration to bring the Tour de France to Scotland. Our commitment hasn’t wavered at all.”
Bush added that if Glasgow is awarded the Youth Olympics in 2018 – the decision will be made on Thursday – then he would like the Tour in the same year.
The Scottish bid lost out to Yorkshire despite having secured £10 million in public funding from throughout the UK and enlisting First Minister Alex Salmond to make an appeal.
Yorkshire’s bid was led by Gary Verity, head of tourism agency, Welcome to Yorkshire, with minimal funding in place.
Only when the Tour confirmed its preference for Yorkshire at the end of last year did the English tourism agency apply to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for funding.
This earned Verity and his team a reprimand, although it now seems the government is prepared to plug a £10m hole, subject to strict conditions that include establishing a new organising committee with the DCMS taking a leading role.
“We would never approach things the way Yorkshire did,” said Stuart Turner, EventScotland’s international events director, “because it’s not just about one event for us, but hundreds of events a year. We wouldn’t work that way but they were successful and we weren’t.”
Turner said a renewed Scottish bid could hinge on the success or otherwise of the Yorkshire Grand Départ.
He added: “If it does end up costing lots of money there could be negative feedback and that could affect our bid.”
For this reason he said that a renewed Scotland bid would not be made before next July. “We haven’t gone back to secure the political backing and finance [for another bid] because we want an agreement from ASO [the owners of the Tour] that four days works,” he said.
“They did acknowledge to us that we couldn’t do it without it being four days, and if we get that agreement, I don’t have any doubt we can get the political backing.” The Scottish bid for the Tour has its roots in 2007, when Bush met Prudhomme in Paris during the Rugby World Cup. The original proposal was for 2016 or 2017, years that Yorkshire also expressed an interest in when it went public with its bid in 2010.
Prudhomme said that changed when Sir Bradley Wiggins became Britain’s first ever Tour winner last year. “After Bradley Wiggins’ win, and after the huge success of the Olympic Games in London, and the hugest success of all of the British cyclists, I knew it must be in Britain as soon as possible,” said Prudhomme. “So it must be 2014.”
Prudhomme suggested it would be five years before another visit to the British roads would be made, paving the way for a Scottish bid. It has recently emerged that London, which hosted the start in 2007, almost had a return as soon as 2009. Ken Livingstone, the then-mayor, shook hands with Prudhomme on an agreement that would have seen the Tour back in London between 2009 and 2011. According to ITV Tour de France presenter Ned Boulting in a new book, On The Road Bike, Livingstone’s successor, Boris Johnson – known, ironically, as the “cycling mayor” – said no.
There are few firm rules when it comes to bidding for the Tour. Prudhomme, whose preference for Yorkshire apparently owed much to the close personal relationship he forged with Verity, said they would consider returning “every year”.
Another Brit, Chris Froome, is favourite for this year’s race, which started in Corsica yesterday. “If we have a British winner of the Tour every year I think we will have new opportunities to do something,” said Prudhomme. “Perhaps to sail from Scotland and go through Yorkshire back to France.”