TENSION is mounting over where the 2014 Tour de France will start after the Government called for a single British bid, which could include a stage through the North-East.

While experts say tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire’s case for staging road races spanning the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Yorkshire Coast remains the frontrunner, the race’s organisers ASO are also considering bids to hold the lucrative Grand Depart in Edinburgh and Florence, Italy.

It is understood ASO will announce the winner either shortly before or after Christmas.

The EventScotland-led bid, which has been backed by British Cycling and UK Sport, would see the race head from Edinburgh to either Dumfries or Newcastle on Saturday, July 5, 2014, before passing through the North West and Wales.

EventScotland boss Paul Bush said its bid would take the world’s top cycling race - which over four days in Britain could generate hundreds of millions of pounds - within an hour’s travel of half of Britain’s population.

He said attempts to persuade Welcome to Yorkshire to present a united bid to Tour de France organisers ASO had failed.

A British Cycling spokesman said the wide geographical reach of its bid offered the greatest potential impact for cycling and represented the technically and creatively best bid for Great Britain.

After race organisers ASO held discussions with EventScotland about its proposed route, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said the Government believed “the best chance of success will be to submit a single bid and we have reached out to Yorkshire to ask them to take part in a national bid”.

Welcome to Yorkshire has declined to consider merging the bids as it believes its offering is sufficiently strong.

A Welcome to Yorkshire spokeswoman said: “We have worked hard over the past two years to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire and we remain confident we will be successful.”

Meanwhile, Dario Nardella, the deputy mayor of Florence, claimed while the Yorkshire bid was in pole position after making a strong cash offer, he urged ASO to consider more than just the financial aspects of the bids, saying the Tuscan city was known and loved all over the world.