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The Giro d'Italia peloton takes in the Northern Ireland coast
Ongoing discussions with sponsors for return of race
As the dust settles on the Giro d'Italia's three stages in Ireland, a major effort is being made by local organisers to use the momentum gained to revive the professional Tour of Ireland.
The Tour of Ireland ran between 2007 and 2009, but was cut from five to three stages by the third edition of the event. An earlier iteration, the Nissan Classic, had existed between 1985 and 1992, coinciding with the apex of Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche's careers.
The key middleman in the organisation of the Giro in Ireland, Darach McQuaid, has said that he is hopeful of an imminent announcement about sealing a sponsor deal to get the race back on the road, and he said that the Giro d’Italia’s success has represented a big boost to his prospects.
"We are following several leads and are very hopeful of announcing something very soon. We think that the Giro start here in Ireland shows what sort of support there is for the sport," McQuaid said in a press conference on Sunday evening.
McQuaid said that the Northern Irish Tourist Board (NITB), which reportedly provided much of the financial traction for the Giro d’Italia in Ireland bid, could well play a key role again in a revived Tour of Ireland because, like Giro’s three-day visit, the race would take place on both sides of the Irish border.
"That is very likely but we are looking to be backed by a commercial brand as well," McQuaid said of NITB’s proposed involvement.
The title sponsor of the last Tour of Ireland was Fáilte Ireland, the Irish tourism board, but the effects of the global economic downturn contributed to the withdrawal of funding from the government body, although Ireland’s national postal service An Post continues to sponsor both the An Post Rás – a UCI 2.2 event – and the An Post-Chain Reaction continental team, as well as a series of sportive events in Ireland.
Flanked by Philip Deignan (Sky) - who pointed out that the Tour de France Grand Depart in Dublin back in 1998 had inspired him to start racing - McQuaid said that he hoped to have the new race officially registered for
However, the deadline for registering events for next season is in June, but if a sponsor is not found in time, McQuaid was confident that 2016 was a realistic start date for the planned event. As was the case between 2007 and 2009, the Tour of Ireland would aim to be ranked as a 2.1 race on the UCI calendar.
McQuaid did not rule out the prospect of a degree of RCS involvement in the organisation of the race, pointing to the collaboration between his Shadetree Sports company and the Giro organisers in the build-up to the Big Start in Belfast. "Certainly that’s something that we wouldn't rule out and we have discussed it," he said.