The 2022 Tour de France is set to start in Saint-Étienne, according to reports from French radio station France Bleu.
The Loire city, which hosted a stage this year, won by Lotto Soudal's Thomas De Gendt, is among several candidates for the Grand Départ, with Yorkshire, Norway and the Basque Country also linked to the 2022 race at various times.
Saint-Étienne appears to be in pole position, with the deal "80 per cent done" according to France Bleu's sources. Reports also confirmed that a contingent from Tour organisers ASO were in the city last week, lending credence to the rumours.
The city has never hosted a Grand Départ before, though it has hosted 20 stage starts and 24 stage finishes over the years. The most recent visit saw De Gendt solo to victory in the shadow of the city's football stadium, the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, with stage 9 setting off nearby the following day.
Back in 2014, the city hosted a start and finish, with Alexander Kristoff beating Peter Sagan in a sprint finish on stage 12. The first time the Tour visited the city was back in 1950, when Raphaël Geminiani won a near-nine hour stage from Briançon.
The Rhône-Alpes region (since 2016 known as Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) has only hosted the Tour start twice before, with Lyon's Grand Départ in 1991, and Évian-les-Bains all the way back in 1926.
The 2020 Tour de France will start in Nice, with the opening two stages held around the southern city, before stage 3 heads west to Sisteron. Back in February, it was announced that the 2021 Tour would start in Copenhagen, Denmark – the most northerly start in race history. The 2023 edition looks set to start in the Basque Country, according to recent reports.