Bid to host start of classic cycling race Tour de France in Devon
Ambitious plans to host the start of the Tour de France in the Westcountry have been revealed to the Western Morning News.
Business leaders are exploring how to raise the £2 million said to be needed to bid to host the race's Grand Départ.
The idea comes after Yorkshire last month successfully won the right to kick off the 2014 event, the first British region to stage the start since London in 2007.
Tim Jones, chairman of the heart of the South West Local Enterprise partnership, will today tell board members there has "never been a better time" to talk about a bid.
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Stiff competition is expected as the recent Yorkshire bid was chosen ahead of offers from Edinburgh, Florence, Barcelona, Berlin and Venice.
Two stages will now take place in the county in 2014 with a third British stage finishing in central London.
A route through Devon would provide organisers with the option of two national parks and major city finishes in Exeter and Plymouth.
The proximity to Plymouth's ferry terminal could also provide the added attraction of a rapid return across the Channel for the huge travelling contingent of riders, organisers and support staff.
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.
Ron Keegan, vice-president of Mid Devon Cycling Club, said that event barely attracted 20,000 spectators, whereas up to a million could now line the streets and country lanes.
Mr Keegan, whose 250 members include 2012 Tour of Britain winner Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, said bringing the race back was "do-able" but perhaps not until 2018.
"The Tour de France often crosses borders to Italy or Switzerland – there has even been talk of New York and the Caribbean," he added.
"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."
Devon County Council has already talked to British Cycling about the possibility of a future Tour stage but said the costs are "far more considerable".
Cabinet member Stuart Hughes said: "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."