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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
London bids for Tour stages
Buckingham Palace
The 2006 Tour could start by Buckingham Palace
London has applied to host the opening stages of the Tour de France in 2006.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has submitted plans to race organisers to stage the opening prologue time trial in central London.

The route would see riders starting and finishing on The Mall and take in Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Tower Bridge.

"Staging the Grand Depart in London in 2006 would be a great honour," said Livingstone. "We have submitted our proposal and are awaiting a decision from Tour organisers."

The first official stage of the Tour would start in Greenwich and take the cyclists into Essex and back to The Mall for the finish.

The second stage would start in Kent and finish on the south coast in Portsmouth. The riders would then travel to northern France for the beginning of the third stage.

We think we have submitted a really strong bid
Transport for London's
Peter Hendy

This year's race, which was won for the fifth time by Lance Armstrong, started in Paris and next year's Tour will begin in the Belgian city of Liege.

As it has never started outside France two years in succession, London's next chance is 2006.

Ireland hosted the start of the 1998 race, with the first two stages in Dublin and the third from Enniscorthy to Cork.

In 1994 the fourth and fifth stages were held in England - from Dover to Brighton, and on an out-and-back course from Portsmouth. A single stage was held in Plymouth in 1974.

The 2006 London bid has the support of the British government, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Council.

It is being organised by Transport for London, part of the Greater London Assembly run by Livingstone.

"We think we have submitted a really strong bid," said Peter Hendy of Transport for London. "We have the support of all the right people in government and hope the organizers will be just as enthusiastic."

Tour de France organisers normally decide on race routes 18 months in advance.

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