AFTER the success of Sunday’s first stage of the 2012 Tour of Britain, sports chiefs have now set their sights on bringing the Tour de France to Suffolk.

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Suffolk County Council has expressed an interest to British Cycling about hosting one of the opening stages of the 2017 race and cycling groups from the county have welcomed the move.

Colin Noble, the council’s cabinet member responsible for sport, said Sunday’s first stage of the Tour of Britain, which started in Ipswich and ran up the Suffolk coast and into Norfolk, had proved very successful.

He said: “For the third year running, Suffolk has shown the world how to host a major sporting event like the Tour of Britain. The cyclists love it, the atmosphere created by the crowds is electric and the events run like clockwork. We think Suffolk does these events so well that we’ve submitted an official expression of interest in hosting one of the opening stages of the 2017 Tour de France.”

British Cycling has invited local authorities to express an interest in the UK, with Yorkshire and Scotland already in the running. Stages were last held in the UK in London and in Kent. Mr Noble added: “Our hope is that by welcoming major sporting events to the county, we’ll be able to inspire more people into sport, provide a much-needed boost to the economy and put on a show for the world to enjoy.”

Mark Burchett, the chairman of Mildenhall Cycling Club, said the success of the likes of Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins at the Olympics and the Tour de France had helped put British cycling “in the shop window”. He said he would endorse the bid on both a personal and a club level, adding: “I was talking to the organiser [of Sunday’s Tour of Britain] afterwards and he was saying that the reports he got back from around the whole course was that the crowds were amazing – as good, if not better than last year [when the tour started in Bury St Edmunds].

“It wouldn’t be the first time we have been fortunate to hold stages of the Tour in this country. It’s a unique opportunity to see the race.”

Peter Heath, membership secretary for West Suffolk Wheelers and Triathlon Club, added: “I know that Yorkshire and Scotland have both bid for the Tour in the next few years – you have got to put a lot of money up for it.

“You never say never though, so much comes with the race anyway and a lot of the organising is through British Cycling.”

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