THE chances of the Tour de France coming to Surrey were boosted last month as Yorkshire won the right to host the opening stage of the 2014 event. The 'grand depart' will take place in Leeds, and the cyclists will arrive in London three days later. And following the success of the Olympic road races, many Surrey people hope the county’s roads will form part of the Tour, as Thom Drake reports.
THE exact route of the 101st Tour de France will be revealed a week on Thursday – and Surrey County Council (SCC) has been trying to bring the race here.
Surriya Subramaniam, business development manager for SCC, said talks have been held to try to bring the world's most famous cycle race through Surrey.
She added: "We are exploring whether these areas would consider taking the race through Surrey on the way to France.
"Any decision will be made on the basis of cost to Surrey and potential economic and community benefits."
The success of last summer's Olympic road races is likely to work in Surrey's favour in negotiations with Tour organisers.
The likely finishing line for the stage would be The Mall, which was also used as the finishing line for the Olympic races, and SCC leader David Hodge is keen to cement Surrey's reputation as a host of top-class cycling.
He said: "We had huge crowds supporting the Olympic cyclists.
"People have been fantastic and showed their enthusiasm for the sport. Thanks to everyone's efforts we showed Surrey off to the world."
The Olympics boosted cycling's popularity in Surrey and the wider UK, and British stars such as Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Victoria Pendleton have all become household names.
In total Team GB won 34 medals in Olympic and Paralympic cycling, and the year was capped by Bradley Wiggins being crowned the BBC's Sport's Personality of the Year, the third time a cyclist has won the award in the past five years.
Mike Hancock, development officer for Dorking Cycling Club, said he was pleased that Box Hill was chosen as the focal point for the Olympic road races, and added that the events had boosted local interest in cycling.
He said: "We've certainly had an increase in membership since the Olympics and this year's Tour de France.
"Dorking Cycling Club is only just over a year old but we are already over the 100 member mark, with 30 to 40 of those coming after the Olympics.
"Other clubs, too, have had an increase.
"I've recently been coaching under-18s with Sutton CC and they too have had a surge in attendance.
"This year has been very successful for British cycling and cycling in Surrey.
"We look forward to seeing more of that in the coming years and hope to become a greater part of that ourselves. We even had one of our jerseys signed by Wiggins."
Mr Hancock said he would be delighted to see the Tour de France pass through Surrey next year.
He added: "Perhaps we'll be cheering on another potential British winner. As a club we support anything that encourages and inspires people to get on their bikes."