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Armstrong factor to help Tour of Ireland go up another gear

Last year's major cycling story was the comeback of Lance Armstrong after three years in retirement. And securing him to ride in the Tour of Ireland was a huge boost for the race and for Irish cycling.

The eyes of the sporting world were firmly fixed on our nation as Lance raced here not long after his incredible podium finish in the Tour de France.

The Failte Ireland Tour of Ireland at the tail end of August may not have been his top priority but it was pure magic for thousands of Armstrong fans who caught a glimpse of him in action over the three days.

From the outset in Enniskerry, the seven times Tour de France winner was besieged by fans, media and fellow cyclists.

With the event done and dusted, he alerted cyclists to his Tweet Ride in the Phoenix Park, Dublin via social networking site, Twitter. The turnout was incredible, with around 2,000 riders turning up to join him.

He used the same tactic in other cities in Europe, but all fell short of the Dublin number -- although, in all honesty, the fact Phoenix Park is so close to the city was clearly a plus.

The legend's Global Cancer Summit in Dublin Castle extended his stay in Ireland and brought an even wider media audience.

It could be argued that Armstrong saved the Tour of Ireland.

In a very difficult year, sponsors stuck with the Tour and the shortened race format did not receive a negative reaction.

Armstrong said he drew the inspiration to return to competitive cycling from American swimmer Dara Torres.

In the Sydney 2000 Olympics, at 33 years of age, she won two gold and three bronze medals despite being the oldest member of the team.


And she was back on the scene in 2008 in Beijing where she won three silver medals at the tender age of 41.

Armstrong's feat at 37 to get a podium finish in last year's Tour de France was an equally remarkable feat. And he'll be back in 2010.

Darach McQuaid, project manager for the Tour of Ireland, said: "I would be hopeful Armstrong will have a great Tour de France and he'll be back in Ireland in 2010.

"Hopefully he'll bring the good weather with him as the final day in Cork was virtually ruined when the heavens opened and made things abysmal for the competitors," said McQuaid.