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The Italian region of Veneto hopes to host a Tour de France stage in the next few years and will make an official presentation of their offer to race organiser ASO in Paris on Wednesday.
Christian Prudhomme, the Tour de France director, has confirmed that he had first received confirmation of the Italians' hopes in March. "It came in a very beautiful box containing two Venetian masks inside and two letters - one in French, one in Italian," he told Cyclingnews recently.
The north-eastern Veneto region is on of the richest areas in Italy and includes the cities of Verona, Padova, Treviso and Venice, where the Giro d'Italia has started in 1997 and 2009.
The specially created VeneTour company is headed by Eleonora Bottecchia, a descendant of Ottavio Bottecchia, the winner of Tour de France in 1924 and 1925. He was born in Veneto but found dead in mysterious circumstances in 1927.
In a press release VeneTour talks of hosting a stage of the Tour de France but Prudhomme hinted that the region could also be a candidate to host the Grand Depart of the race.
"It's fantastic to see that the Tour de France, which has never started from Italy, now has three candidatures," he told Cyclingnews.
Prudhomme confirmed that Genoa would also like to host a Grand Depart, while Florence has also shown interest in hosting the 2014 Grand Depart to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of two-time Tour de France winner Gino Bartali.