The Borders could host Tour de France opener

PLANS to hold part of the 2017 Tour de France in the Borders are gathering speed following proposals to bring the world’s most famous cycling event to the UK, writes Fiona Scott.

The tour regularly starts outside of France and the recent proposition would see part of the Tour Prologue event take place on our local roads.

The proposal would involve the Scottish capital staging the preliminary prologue – a short time trial – with further stages being held in the Scottish Borders and England.

The bid is being backed by EventScotland, the Scottish government, British Cycling and UK Sport, with the overall aim of “keeping the Tour in the UK for as long as possible.”

And local MSP John Lamont has backed plans for a Borders involvement, stating that not only would the Tour provide welcome publicity for the area, but it might also encourage the next generation of cyclists.

Mr Lamont added: “The Tour de France is the most prestigious cycling event in the world and it would be a great achievement to bring part of it to the Borders.

“The Tour prologue is what starts the event each year and I can think of no better place to do it than on our local roads.

“Not only would it provide great publicity for the Borders, but it would also provide a much-needed economic boost as fans of the Tour visit us to see the time trials.

“With the Commonwealth Games being held in Scotland in 2014, we have an opportunity to inspire our next generation of athletes.

“We need to keep that momentum going and an event such as the Tour de France would be perfect for achieving this.

“I and many others will be wishing the bid every success and I sincerely hope that we can see this world-famous event brought to the Borders.”

It is understood the plan to host stages in Scotland first surfaced last year when Tour organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) were impressed by the area while on a visit and are considering the proposal, which will now be planned in more detail.

With Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014, the Rugby World Cup taking place in England a year later and 2016 being an Olympic year, 2017 is considered an ideal opportunity for the UK to host the Tour, which attracts two million people to the opening stage.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “To bring such a fantastic event to Scotland would be a huge coup, but we have a strong track record and I know that the country has a huge amount to offer ASO and the cyclists taking part.”

London hosted the Grand Depart in 2007. In 2010 the race began in Rotterdam and the 2012 edition is set to start in Liege, while Yorkshire is bidding to host the 2016 Grand Depart.

The south of Scotland already plays a major role in the Tour of Britain cycling race, with the Borders, along with Dumfries and Galloway, regularly hosting stages in recent years.