Tour rolls into Dublin to avoid collision with World Cup final


The start of the world's top cycle race in Dublin five months from today will be the biggest thing to happen to Ireland since the Pope visited 19 years ago, the director of the Tour de France Company, Mr Jean-Marie Leblanc, has said.

Ireland's hosting of the race owes more to pragmatism than divine intervention. The World Cup final will take place in Paris on July 12th.

"We didn't want the two events to compete," Mr Leblanc told a meeting of the Franco-Irish Chamber of Commerce here yesterday. "Imagine the problems it would have created for television transmission, police operations."

Ireland beat Belgium for the privilege of holding the first three days of the race, on July 11th, 12th and 13th, even though Tour de France organisers were daunted by the logistics of transporting 3,000 people and 1,200 vehicles from France in one night. Three aircraft and three Stena Line ferries from Rosslare and Cork will transport the operation to Brittany on July 13th.

On July 9th Tour de France officials will lay a wreath on the grave of Shay Elliott, who won the Tour de France in 1963. On the 12th the first stage of the race will begin in Dundrum, home village of the 1987 champion Stephen Roche.

The stage between Enniscorthy and Cork on July 13th will pass through Carrick-on-Suir, hometown of the points classification record-holder, Sean Kelly.

The 180 cyclists will be introduced to the public at Lansdowne Road on July 10th, followed by a concert. Nine hundred million television viewers are expected to watch the race, which RTE, French television and Eurovision will broadcast live; the July 12th segment will be completed by 4 p.m., so those who want to watch the World Cup final will have no problem.

Mrs Aine Ades of Bord Failte in Paris said the race would draw thousands of extra tourists this summer. "We think a lot of people will stay on after the opening of the Tour. It's an incredible marketing opportunity."