Lille Métropole, the urban community grouping cities such as Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing, announced its bid to host the Tour de France start in 2014. Community mayor Martine Aubry announced the news at the official ceremony to lay the foundation stone of a new indoor velodrome in Roubaix.
"This is great news," an excited region native Cédric Vasseur told La Voix des Sports. Lille hosted a Tour de France start once before, in 1994, which in 2014 will be 20 years ago. But the region is standing against other strong candidates such as Barcelona in Spain and Florence in Italy.
"But I think that Lille has a definite advantage with respect to Barcelona and Florence, because we don't represent an unrealistic challenge," Vasseur said.
Tour organiser Amaury Sports Organisation will be looking closely at all applicants before making its decision, even though some say that the approximate route of the 2014 event is already inked on paper.
But even if the region is not awarded the honour of a Grand Départ, it could be the showplace for other massive cycling events as the foundations for the new Roubaix indoor velodrome have been laid. The 250m-long track, located right beside the famous outdoor velodrome where the finish line of Paris-Roubaix is located, will be ready in time for 2012 London Olympics with a very special plan.
Indeed, authorities are hoping to make the new site the back-up training venue for the Olympic track cycling events in the summer of 2012. But more than that, the site with an estimated cost of 25 million Euro will also include a BMX track and be used by professional cyclists and amateurs alike, to make Roubaix the first address for cycling in France.
"The idea is to satisfy the needs of top level athletes as well as those of leisure cyclists," said Arnaud Tournant, multiple world and Olympic champion and now the project's technical counsellor, who hopes that the velodrome will one day also host Six-Day races.