'It would be a disaster if it didn't take place' - Rás needs sponsor to survive
Organisers of Rás Tailteann are running out of time to find a sponsor to ensure the future of Irish cycling's most famous race.
Cumann Rás Tailteann, the club behind the eight-stage event, are due to meet on Monday to discuss the viability of the race, which has been without a title sponsor since An Post pulled the plug after 2016.
Race director Eimear Dignam says it would be a "disaster" for the sport if the race, which goes back to 1953, did not have the finances to take place in 2019.
A final decision could be pushed back until early December, as they did last year, but 12 months ago the organisers had the safety net of a once-off slush fund that could cover the minimum €280,000 cost of running the race.
That fund has been spent "down to the last penny" and the hunt for new sponsors has "stalled".
"It would be a disaster if it didn't take place," said Eimear Dignam, who took over as race director last year.
"It's the biggest race on the calendar. You look at the likes of Sam Bennett and all those cyclists that are out there at the moment, they cut their teeth on the Rás.
"If we don't have this, any young cyclist coming through won't get exposure to, one, an international race and, two, an eight-day race, which are very thin on the ground at the moment."
Dignam, who works as a regional development officer with Dublin GAA, said it's been even more difficult to open doors to potential sponsors this year than last, but they haven't yet given up the fight.
"You have to be optimistic, otherwise you'd just give up, and we're not giving up by any stretch of the imagination," she explained.
"People have come to me and said, this guy is interested or that guy is interested, but we just need definite conversations with interested parties. I'm always optimistic but at this present moment things have stalled a little bit.
"I want a reminder out there that we're still looking. We ran a successful race in 2018 but the money we had then, we don't have this year, it was used down to the last penny."
Soon the hard logistical reality will come into play for organising next year's event.
"We need money for deposits to secure rooms for the riders, people don't realise that," added Dignam, who doesn't believe the negative headlines that have often been associated with the sport have played any part in their struggle to find a backer.
"I don't think it's anything to do with the doping in cycling, because the Rás has always had a different sort of image. I do think the big companies are looking for the big-dollar sports. I'm working in Dublin GAA, I see how easy it is for the commercial director to get commercial partners on board," she said.
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