Three years after its reintroduction, the Tour of Ireland has been put on hold following a shortfall in sponsorship for this year’s edition. The race organizers confirmed yesterday that the 2010 race – which was due to be held in mid-August – is off, but said that they hope the five day, 2.1-ranked event will resume in 2011.
"Despite significant commercial and public sector funding, current economic conditions have meant that the additional investment required to make the event viable has not been forthcoming in time for this season," they said in a statement.
"We fully intend to bring it back for 2011 when the private sector environment is stronger," added organizer Alan Rushton.
The race returned in 2007 after a long absence, and enjoyed strong support from the public and the media. Images from the event were shown worldwide, justifying the investment put in by the Irish Tourism body Failte Ireland.
The previous incarnation was titled the Nissan Classic, and ran until 1992. UCI President Pat McQuaid was involved in the organization of that with Rushton, and he said that he regretted the news.
"I understand the situation because the economic situation in Ireland is very bad at the moment. I would hope that over the next 12 months that they might find another sponsor that can come on board. I know that there is genuine support from the government and companies like An Post that the event would continue," he told Cyclingnews. "It just needs another commercial sponsor to make it viable. I would hope that over the next twelve months that the conditions would improve a bit to make that happen."
The race was reduced from five to three days last year due to a tight economic environment. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong competed in the race, but the organizers denied that he had been paid a fee to do so. Armstrong had previously received an appearance fee in races like the Tour Down Under and the Giro d’Italia.
British rider Russell Downing won the event, and this victory helped him to get a pro contract with Team Sky. He rewarded that trust when he won a stage in the Criterium International this year.
McQuaid said that the race is an important fixture on the Irish calendar. "Cycling has a very strong history and tradition in Ireland and it deserves to have the best professionals in the world coming there at least once a year to take part in races and to show themselves to the Irish public," he said.
However he argues that the effect of races stopping extends much wider. "It’s not just important for Irish cycling, but also for European and world cycling. Every major international race in the national territory is important for the continuous development of the sport."
Rushton will be working hard in the months ahead to try to get things back on track for August 2011.