LONDON (Reuters) -The Tour de France could return to Britain in 2026 after the government confirmed on Wednesday it would help fund a bid to host the Grand Depart for the world's most-celebrated bike race.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Autumn Budget confirmed that funds would be allocated for a Tour de France bid as part of a 40 million pounds package aimed at hosting more world class sporting events to the UK.
The government is also backing a British-Irish bid to host the 2030 soccer World Cup and the 2025 Women's Rugby World Cup.
The Tour de France last visited Britain in 2014 with the opening two stages in Yorkshire and a third stage from London to Cambridge attracting huge crowds.
According to British Cycling, research on the 2014 Grand Depart showed that the event generated approximately 130 million pounds ($178.50 million) for the local economies.
London also hosted the Grand Depart in 2007 and the race visited Britain in 1974 and in 1994, although the new bid will focus on taking the race to other regions including Wales and Scotland with 95% of the investment in hosting the Tour de France stages outside the South East.
"The 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire was an unforgettable celebration of our sport and is still talked about to this day, inspiring a new generation of cyclists," British Cycling CEO Brian Facer said.
"More importantly, those few days showcased our country's credentials as one of the world's best cycling nations, and we're delighted to be supporting the UK Government's bid to bring the sport's showpiece event back to these shores in 2026."
British riders have enjoyed unprecedented success in the Tour in the past decade with Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas all claiming overall victory.
It has become increasingly common for the Tour de France to start outside France with next year's edition starting in Denmark while the 2023 race will begin in Bilbao.
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(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Christian Radnedge)