By Shane Stokes
The Tour of the North race has received a significant boost with the news that sponsor P&O Irish Sea has confirmed its commitment to the race until 2012. The shipping company has played an important part in the history of the race, backing it since the early 1990s.
The 2007 race was recently launched at Belfast City Hall and two former winners were in attendance. 1999 and 2003 victor Tommy Evans was there, as was current Tour champion Ryan Connor (winner in 2004 & 2006). The latter confirmed that he would be competing again this year.
"The Tour of the North is the big event in Northern Ireland, and with Sean Kelly a previous winner, it is an honour to be included in the list of Tour champions, said Connor, who competes with the Giant Asia Racing Team. I can confirm that I will be lining up on Good Friday in an attempt to win my third tour, and the news that P&O are on board until 2012 comes as great news that will allow the event to plan for the future."
Full route details will be released shortly. However stage venues have been confirmed as Belfast (Stormont) on Good Friday, Ballymena on Easter Saturday, North Down (Bangor) on Easter Sunday and Castlereagh (Carryduff) on Easter Monday.
Race director Anthony Mitchell was delighted with the news of P&O Irish Seas ongoing commitment. "This is a fantastic shot in the arm for the event, and having previously worked on a year by year agreement, this long term deal allows us to plan for the next five years. It is a great tribute to a small team of administrators that make this event happen each year."
The AA will continue to support the races King of the Hills competition.