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Boris Johnson admits 'painful' decision to pull out of Tour de France running

Published 28/09/2015

The 2014 Tour de France passes Betty's Tea Rooms in York
The 2014 Tour de France passes Betty's Tea Rooms in York

London mayor Boris Johnson said it was a "no brainer" to turn down the opportunity for London to host the start of the Tour de France in 2017.

The cycling enthusiast said it was "entirely my call" to pull out of the event, believing the £35 million cost could be better spent.

Transport for London (TfL) announced yesterday that it would not host the Tour de France Grand Depart because it did not represent value for money.

He said: "I had to take a very tough decision, obviously painful. In an ideal world, you know me, my policy is to have your cake and eat it.

"The difficulty was we had to make a choice. £35 million is an awful lot to spend on a one off event when you could put that money in to long term projects.

"What people really want is safer cycling lanes."

He added: "For me it was a no brainer."

He believes "most people" would accept the cost of the race was too much, but denied it marked the end of big sporting events in London.

Asked why London made the initial bid for the event only to later pull out, he said: "You've got to make some tough choices."

The capital was asked to host the start of the world's most prestigious cycling race 10 years on from its hugely successful staging of the tour and three years after hosting a stage finish of the 2014 edition which started in Leeds.

Tour organisers Amaury Sports Organisation and bidding regions or cities engage in a courtship and Transport for London spurning advances could impact on when the race will next take place in the UK.

Scottish authorities are still in discussions, although logistics make such a bid challenging, while Manchester is understood to no longer be in the running.

There is no doubt ASO wishes to exploit Britain's affinity for cycling, but it is also keen to take advantage of the sport's rejuvenation in Germany.

The man who brought the Tour to Yorkshire would welcome a return, but accepts it is more realistic later in the decade.

Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: "The Tour de France, in its 112-year history, has never gone back to anywhere as quickly as that."

Despite admitting that the not-for-profit organisation suffered a loss on its investment in the race, he said Yorkshire as a whole had benefited.

He said: "From our point of view, it was tremendous value for money last year. The return on investment was either between five or six times, which is a pretty good return on investment I think in anybody's books and the long-term legacy benefits for us of hosting the Tour de France are still being seen."

Announcing the decision to decline hosting duties in 2017, Leon Daniels, managing director of surface transport at TfL, yesterday said the return of the Tour was always "subject to funding".

Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman appeared to sympathise with Mr Johnson's decision to save the money.

He tweeted: "Don't know the details but if I had to choose, I'd spend it on infrastructure as well.

"That said, why bid in the first place?"

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