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THE Tour de France will help put Essex on the map and provide a huge economic windfall for the region.

That’s the view of business leaders as the county gears up to host one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

Monday will see some of best cyclists around – including Brit and current champion Chris Froome.

Experts predict his nearest challenger will be twotime winner Alberto Contodor and both will be racing through the streets of Uttlesford, Braintree, Chelmsford and Epping Forest before entering London for the big finale.

David Birch, director of policy at Essex Chamber of Commerce, said the world would see Essex and what it has to offer.

He said: “With the tour going through such a large part of the county, it will really put Essex on the map.

“People all over the world will get to see our towns through the international newspapers and TV coverage.

“I know a number of the councils on the route are doing lots of positive things to promote their area.

“People here in Essex and elsewhere in the UK have worked very hard the past few years to bring the tour here, and it’s a great credit to them that this is happening.

“It’s going to be a great advert for Essex.

It’s only two years since Essex was the centre of attention when Hadleigh hosted the mountain biking event at the London Olympics.

And Mr Birch added: “It’s almost a continuation of the London Olympics with the excitement.

People really got into cycling then – it will be the same now.

“We should all be really positive that this is happening in Essex, and businesses will really be booming.

“Restaurants, bars, hotels, shops, road-side caterers – they’re all going to benefit.”

Leader of Chelmsford Council, Roy Whitehead, said despite people’s concerns over road closures for the most of the day, the positives its brings to the city far outweigh any negatives – with 40,000 expected to line the route.

He said: “We’ve had a big team involved with getting Chelmsford ready for the day, and making sure people will be able to get involved.

“I’m sure there are some people who are unhappy with road and school closures, but it’s one of these rare events which don’t come around that often.

“We have to make the most of it and take advantage.

“We see it as a celebration of Chelmsford, certainly.

There’s all this debate about the positives and negatives about becoming a city, but this is giving us worldwide coverage.

Events like this and V Festival really help. There’s a huge benefit to it.”