Organisers set to confirm Rás won't be run in 2019
Hopes are fading that a sponsorship deal can be put in place in time to rescue the Rás Tailteann.
The Irish Independent understands that race organisers are expecting to confirm next week that they have been unable to find a financial backer to keep the Rás on the road for 2019. The Rás has taken place every year since 1953, but it has been without a title sponsor since An Post pulled the plug in 2017.
The 2019 edition of the race has been in doubt for months, but with discussions with potential sponsors dragging on, race organisers have been reluctant to admit defeat in their search for a deal to finance the event.
Last year's race was covered by a once-off savings fund, but with every last penny spent a new sponsor was required to cover the €300,000 costs.
Race director Eimear Dignam has held out well beyond the initial self-imposed deadline of last October to find a backer and despite several leads it appears the Cumann Rás Tailteann, who organise the event, have run out of time.
It would be a significant blow for Irish cycling to lose the most prestigious domestic event on the calendar, and former national champion Damien Shaw fears it could be lost for good if it doesn't take place this year.
"It would be an absolutely massive loss for the whole Irish scene and it might be something that it might not recover from. It just needs one gap in the calendar and it could be gone," said the Mullingar racer, who was the leading Irish rider in the 2018 edition.
"You'd be talking about taking a massive chunk out of the Irish calendar, if the Rás wasn't there."
Sean Kelly never rode the Rás, but he saw the importance of the event from his role in developing young Irish talent.
An Post's decision to step back from the sport was also the death knell for Kelly's Continental team, who were unable to find a replacement backer.
However, under the guidance of the former classics specialist, Irish riders such as Sam Bennett, Ryan Mullen and Conor Dunne used the race as an important step up the ladder.
"Look at the more recent guys," Kelly said. "It's been an important event for them.
"It's always something when guys start racing here, the Rás is the one they look to ride and then go on to Europe.
"It's an amateur race, a week long, it's the perfect race for the developing Irish riders, and the European riders, it's very important for all of those guys and that would be the disappointment of seeing it going."