London plans mega Tour start

London has officially announced its plans for hosting the start of the 2007 Tour de France. At a...

London has officially announced its plans for hosting the start of the 2007 Tour de France. At a press conference on Thursday, London Mayor Ken Livingstone unveiled the parcours of the 8 km prologue and 200 km first stage. Taking place on July 7, the prologue will be an individual time trial, starting in Whitehall and passing alongside St James Park, by Buckingham Palace, through Green Park and Hyde Park before doubling back and finishing on The Mall. Featuring few corners or climbs, the short stage should produce some high average speeds.

The first stage on July 8 will also begin in London, travelling eastward along the Thames out to Gravesend, before turning south and passing through Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, Tenterden, Ashford, and finishing in Canterbury. The 209 km stage features several small climbs, but should be suited to the sprinters.

The 2007 start will take place exactly two years after the tube bombings that shook London on July 7, 2005. At the launch, Mayor Livingstone was quoted by BBC as saying, "Having the Grand Depart on the seventh of July will broadcast to the world that terrorism does not shake our city. There can be no better way of celebrating the unity of humanity than this great sporting event coming to us on that day and being seen by millions, safety and happily."

The last time the Tour de France visited England was in 1994, when it remained in the southeastern part of the country, but did not pass through London. The only other time it has been to England was in 1974, when Henk Poppe won the sole stage from Plymouth to Plymouth.

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