BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand are in talks with Tour de France organisers about bringing the world's most prestigious cycling race to Asia for the first time and are confident of doing so by 2016, a senior tourism official said on Thursday.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand said they had held fruitful talks with Jean-Etienne Amaury, Chairman of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) who organise the Tour de France, last month in Paris and were encouraged.
"We are still talking with Tour de France organisers but we are looking at next fiscal year. So 2016, not 2015," TAT governor Thawatchai Arunyik told Reuters.
"We’re not sure yet how many stages we will hold whether it is one or two stages or the whole competition. This is something that still needs to be discussed.
"Thailand is the perfect location for this highly prestigious competition, not to mention that cycling as a sport is enjoying enormous popularity here at the moment."
The ASO was unable to provide immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.
The Tour, first held in 1903, is one of the most gruelling sporting tests, with professional cyclists completing last year's 3,663.5 kilometre race (2,276 miles) in 23 days.
The race, a mix of energy-sapping mountain stages and time trial sprints, takes place through France but last year's 101st edition began in England and also went through Belgium with more countries keen to host stages.
Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain and Luxembourg have also hosted the start of the race in recent years before the riders make their way through France and finish at the traditional end point, the Champs Elysees in Paris.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by Ian Ransom)
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