Rás na mBan to go ahead in September despite sponsorship woes
Organisers still searching for a new title sponsor following An Post’s withdrawal
Ireland’s Sam Bennett: bravely battling a head cold. Photograph: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images
The organisers of Rás na mBan have said they are still searching for a new title sponsor for the event following An Post’s decision to end its backing.
The company announced last year that due to financial circumstances it would be ending its association with the international women’s race, with the An Post Rás and also with Sean Kelly’s team An Post Chain Reaction.
Chain Reaction was forced to take a year out when it ran out of time to secure a new title sponsor for 2018. It hopes to return next season. As for the Rás Tailteann, organisers plan to go ahead this year, but still hope to secure something before the start of the race in May.
Ditto for Rás na mBan, which will be held in September.
“It is an ongoing process,” said media professional Declan Quigley, who has been involved with the race for several years. “We have a number of irons in the fire. We are in conversation with a number of parties, but there is nothing confirmed yet.”
Quigley believes the race has a lot to offer. “The event has expanded and grown over the years. It has now become a very valuable property in the Irish sport rights market,” he said. “I think it would make a very valuable string to a marketing company.
“This is a particularly good time for women’s sport. It seems as if there has been a reawakening of the awareness of women in sport in the last 12 months. Rás na mBan has a very balanced demographic; in terms of those who engage with the race, half of the audience is men and half is women. I think there is a great opportunity for people to get involved.”
The race goes on
While the search for a new backer or backers continues, Quigley said that he believes the race will go ahead. “We are planning ahead and getting organised. The race ... will take place again in Kilkenny from September 5th to 9th. We will announce the routes in due course.”
Meanwhile, Sam Bennett is due to get his season under way in Sunday’s People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide, but is battling the effects of illness. Twelve months ago he finished second in the 50km criterium-style race; this time around, he had a solid winter but has come down recently with a head cold and is trying to get back on track.
The next days will determine if he can ride the race, but Bennett hopes to do so and thus give his system a kick-start prior to Tuesday’s opener of the Santos Tour Down Under.