Positive signs for Rás future following talks with potential sponsors

Decision on next year’s cycle race is postponed until early December

Race director Eimear Dignam and Noel Clarke on his 50th Rás. Photograph: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Race director Eimear Dignam and Noel Clarke on his 50th Rás. Photograph: INPHO/Bryan Keane

 

The organisers of the Rás Tailteann have postponed a decision about next year’s race, deferring a self-imposed deadline due to positive talks with potential sponsors.

The organising committee had pin-pointed November 19th as the date when it would decide whether or not the race would go ahead. However race director Eimear Dignam told The Irish Times on Thursday that encouraging discussions meant that this deadline would be extended until early December.

“Things are looking more promising than before,” she said. “An international company came to us through an intermediary. They are very interested and are looking to put money into cycling. It is an ongoing negotiation, something positive.

“There is also an Irish-based company, a possibility that was there for a while. They came back to us this week and want to have another meeting.”

The Rás is the biggest fixture in Irish cycling and is a world ranked event on the sport’s international calendar. It attracts some of the best young talent in cycling and has been won in the past by riders who went on to take major victories in the sport. These include Irish Tour de France winner Stephen Roche and multiple world time trial champion Tony Martin.

Sponsorship

The event was backed for many years by An Post, with the company’s sponsorship covering the considerable costs of running the eight-day contest. That agreement came to an end after the 2016 event, but the race was able to take place last May due to a slush fund which had been built up over several years.

That fund is now depleted, leading Dignam to state that the race would not take place in 2019 unless a new backer was found.

However fears that the event could fall by the wayside have abated somewhat with the latest update. In addition to the two companies mentioned, Dignam said she is also in talks with others.

She is keen to reach a final decision soon. “I want to be able to announce what is happening at the beginning of December,” she said. “The clock is ticking. For the past three or four weeks, I have been contacted daily by foreign teams expressing an interest in riding the race. There is a huge interest from a foreign perspective, even more than in recent years.

“To be fair to them, and also to the Irish riders who would base their season around the start on May 19th, I want to be able to say what is happening at the beginning of December.”

Hotel bookings for next year’s race still need to be made, but Dignam confirmed that route designer Stephen O’Sullivan has already drawn up a course for the round-Ireland event.

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