Rás Tailteann downsized for 2020 due to lack of title sponsor

Cycling: Event cancelled this year after An Post pulled out, but returns as domestic race

Rás Tailteann race director Eimear Dignam and Noel Clarke, who cycled his 50th Rás, at last year’s event.  Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Rás Tailteann race director Eimear Dignam and Noel Clarke, who cycled his 50th Rás, at last year’s event. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Former Rás Tailteann race director Eimear Dignam has spoken about the new direction the race is heading in, saying that the unsuccessful hunt for title sponsorship was complicated by Brexit. The race was backed for several years by An Post, but when the company stepped down after the 2017 event, Dignam had to draw on a reserve fund to run the event in 2018.

She embarked on a hunt for new backing but was unable to secure a replacement sponsor. That led to this year’s event being cancelled, a first since the race was launched in 1953, raising doubts about the 2020 event.

On Wednesday Dignam revealed that the round-Ireland tour was changing hands, with a collection of race volunteers stepping forward to take over. The Cáirde Rás Tailteann group will run the event next year. However, the lack of backing means that the new organisers have to remove it from the UCI calendar and run a smaller, shorter race.

“Talks were very quiet in recent months,” Dignam said, speaking about how Brexit had complicated things with regards to the sponsor search. “I even brought in the Junior Tour and Rás na mBan in an attempt to use the three prongs of men, women and underage in an attempt to try to coax a sponsor in [to back all of the events]. But there was nothing biting at all.

“It is a shame, because the package could have been a good deal.”

Temporary development

Those involved with the event are hoping that the race’s return to the domestic calendar is a temporary development, and that it will step back up as a UCI-ranked international event in future years.

In other news, Irish professional Rory Townsend is enjoying the best period of his career. Townsend has been competing in the Tour of Fuzhou in China and has shone in two sprint stages. He was first to the line on Monday’s second stage and then repeated the feat on Wednesday when he opened a solid gap in the finale of stage four.

Townsend was born in England but races with an Irish licence. He was fourth in the Irish road race championships in June and competes for the Canyon DHB p/b Bloor Homes team. His performances this week see him sitting second in the points classification with two stages remaining.

Finally, the UCI has announced the allocation of places for the Olympic road events. Ireland will be able to field three riders in the men’s Olympic road race plus one in the men’s time trial. Ireland has not qualified any places in the women’s road events.

The UCI has stated that the various national Olympic committees must confirm the numbers of places that will be taken up by December 15th. Unused slots will be reallocated.

FIXTURES

Saturday
Cycling Ireland AGM, Citywest Hotel, Saggart. Starts 10am.

Sunday
Cathedral Cross, round 7 of Ulster cyclocross series. Starts 9am in Palace Demesne, Armagh.

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