THE start of the Tour de France will be a "very important sporting moment" for the UK, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said today (Thursday, July 3).

Speaking in the Commons, shadow sports minister Clive Efford said the race would showcase some of Britain's "most beautiful countryside".

He told Mr Javid: "Despite recent sporting setbacks our enthusiasm remains at fever pitch.

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"Will you, like me, be among the three million it's anticipated will go to watch the start of the Tour de France this weekend?

"The Grand Depart will showcase some of Britain's most beautiful countryside and will you join me in wishing Yorkshire every success in hosting this event, wish every participant well and success of course to our British ride, and can you also say what you're doing to ensure that the event goes smoothly and that the region continues to benefit from the boost to tourism it will get from hosting this event?"

Mr Javid replied: "I agree with you about the importance of the Grand Depart taking place in Yorkshire.

"I think it's a very important sporting moment for the UK.

"I will be visiting on day one on Saturday. I look forward to seeing you there, as will the Prime Minister be visiting and (Sports Minister Helen Grant) will also be helping."

But the Culture Secretary deliberately avoided wishing Mark Cavendish luck out of fear his words would have the opposite effect.

He joked: "Politicians wishing sport stars well seems to jinx them so I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of Mark Cavendish's rivals the very best of luck."

Sports Minister Helen Grant did not follow suit when asked to wish the England Women's rugby team well as they head off to the World Cup in Paris this year.

She said she wished the girls the "very, very, very best of luck".