London's Tour bid emerges as a front runner

London's bid to host two stages of the 2006 Tour de France looks increasingly likely to be successful. Transport for London and ASO, organisers of Le Tour, are both tight-lipped about the possibility of a City prologue and a Greater London premier etape, but noises emerging from sources close to both parties hint at a positive outcome for British cycling. PLUS: Rough Guides may publish a 'Rough Guides to the Tour de France', an English-language freebie that would aim to educate us Brits on the finer points of the Grand Boucle...
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A delegation from London was at the Paris prologue of this year's Tour. As well as representatives of Transport for London, there were also key players such as high-ups from the Metropolitan Police.

Transport for London offers a 'no comment' when asked whether their bid is likely to be successful, but sources close to the bid team reveal that there's extreme optimism that London can close a deal with ASO.

Ken Livingstone would have to pledge millions of pounds to attract the Tour to London but the additional tourism income generated by a London start for the world's biggest annual sporting event would mean this expenditure could be easily justified.

Officially, ASO offers just a Gallic shrug of the shoulders when asked about London's chances, but insiders believe a London start would be an excellent PR coup (and lucrative, too).

London-based Rough Guides, published by Penguin, will be well up for a London start to the Tour. The company had representatives at this year's event and has discussed the pubication of an English-language giveaway book. ASO is said to have no objections. The book would be written by ProCycling magazine's editor and contributors. There are no firm launch plans as yet.

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