Rás Tailteann race director says talks on new backer still in limbo

New Irish team adds another strong rider in Mark Downey

One week after saying she hoped that a final decision would be reached in terms of the running of the 2019 Rás Tailteann, race director Eimear Dignam has been forced into further delay due to ongoing discussions. "We are still in limbo," she told The Irish Times on Thursday.

Dignam has been talking to two prospective backers, one based in Ireland and another overseas. "We've been talking to the Irish company and the proposal has now been passed onto the CEO of the larger group they are part of. But it will be the new year before we know.

“As regards the international company, we are still chasing that up. If we don’t get a decision in the next couple of days it may well be after Christmas before we do.”

The race was backed for many seasons by the An Post company, but it ended its sponsorship in 2017. The event was then run last May using a slush fund built up over many years, but with that now exhausted holding the international race next year is contingent on a new backer being found.

Dignam originally said that she wanted to reach a final decision in November. However, she has opted to show flexibility in order to give the race the best possible chance of going ahead.

“Time is getting on, but I don’t want to pull out of running the 2019 Rás if there are two opportunities still in progress. But the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to organise in time. We will have to make a final decision early in the new year as to whether or not we will be able to go ahead with the race.”

World Cup races

In other news, the Irish Evo Pro racing team has confirmed the signing of one of Ireland's most talented young riders. Mark Downey has taken gold at three track cycling World Cup races, winning points race gold in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, in November 2016, and Cali, Colombia, in February 2017, and also taking Madison gold the same month with Felix English in Los Angeles.

His other results include a silver medal in the junior European track championships and silver and bronze in the under 23 Euros. He is also an accomplished rider on the road, netting second on a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir last August.

The Evo Pro team fills the gap left by previous Irish UCI-registered outfits An Post and Aqua Blue Sport. It will compete as a Continental level team in 2019, but aims to step up to Pro Continental the following season.

Its other signings include Irishmen Matthew Teggart, Daire Feeley, Aaron Kearney and Cormac McGeough, as well as respected international competitors such as Dutch sprinter Wouter Wippert, plus the strong Kiwis Shane Archbold, Aaron Gate and former world junior track champion Luke Mudgway.

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes

Shane Stokes is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about cycling