Le Tour comes to Britain next year. Helen William assesses its likely impact.
London is gearing up for a £70 million windfall when the Tour de France hits town next year.
Despite doping scandals, being pitched against Wimbledon and cycling not being a mainstream televised sport in Britain, organisers of the race's London 2007 start are buzzing with excitement.
It will be nothing less than a three-day invasion by a technicolour swarm of riders capable of staggering superhuman feats of endurance. Their massive entourage complete with medics, security in the form of the Republican Guard whose day job is to protect the President, and its associated commercial bandwagon are also coming along for the ride.
London's Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy said: "London is going to be ready for this because it is the sort of spectacular that will be good for the UK and that we do so well.
"Considering the amount of money we put in, we are getting a lot back over a short period of time. And what's more you get to be right up close to the top stars; you would never be able to get that close to David Beckham."
Transport for London (TfL) "conservatively" estimate they will get a £70 million return on the £1.5 million they paid organisers Amaury Sport Organisation to host the start. Another £5 million has been earmarked to cover running costs although this budget has not been finalised.
A mini-boom for the hotel industry is predicted that weekend with 237,500 people staying overnight including 120,000 who will be paying out for commercial accommodation.
Hotels can expect 83,000 people to stay overnight and 35,000 to stay for two nights.
"With the start being smack in the middle of London I know the guys will be able to put on a brilliant show," said Sean Yates, a two-time British champion now the assistant sporting director of Discovery Channel, the team co-owned by seven-time winner Lance Armstrong.
He should know, he wore the yellow jersey in 1994, the last time the Tour came to Britain.
Bradley Wiggins, Britain's 2004 Olympics individual pursuit champion, said: "This is just like the Olympics coming to town for the day.
"It is a one-off and it is going to be enormous. It is really going to build up over the next year."
He aims to be on the 2007 start line, as giants of the road prepare to speed past landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace and is a contender to win the first stage.
The Tour, founded in 1903, attracts 15 million roadside spectators. More than 2,965 hours of coverage is broadcast to 184 countries.
This year's Tour began shrouded in controversy when the two favourites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso were dropped by their teams on the eve of the race after being implicated in an investigation into doping in Spain.
Masses of fans still flocked to the roadside. The same can be predicted in London and the south east where two million spectators are expected.
The opening ceremony will be in Trafalgar Square on July 6.
The 8km Prologue time-trial takes place on July 7.
The riders will speed off on the 200km first stage through London and Kent the next day.