Ireland’s biggest stage race Rás Tailteann will be downsized in 2019 due to a lack of sponsorship.
The eight-day race, formerly known as An Post Rás, has been part of the UCI calendar since 2000, attracting plenty of young riders who have gone on to ride at the highest level.
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Previous winners of the UCI 2.2-ranked event have included Marcin Białobłocki, Ag2r La Mondiale’s Gediminas Bagdonas and German time trial specialist Tony Martin.
But after a fruitless sponsor search, the event is likely to be held as a non-UCI race over three or four days.
Race director Eimear Dignam said: “We have exhausted all opportunities in relation to sponsorship for a UCI race this year.
“I am extremely disappointed. I have been involved in the race my whole life.
“But I am satisfied that I explored every opportunity to use to secure a sponsorship.
“We never envisaged that it would come to an end like this, but hopefully it won’t be an end.”
Dignam said she hopes the race will return at UCI level in 2020.
The Rás Tailteann dates back to 1953, when it was held as a two-day event.
Growing to nine days before its current format over eight stages, the race has been a showcase for some of the greats of Irish cycling including Stephen Roche.
The organisers hope to maintain the race in some form this year.
Dignam added: “There may be an option there for a three or four-day race to be run by a separate organisation committee.
“It would be a small, non-UCI race. Those discussions will be held in the coming weeks.”
Dignam had been in talks with an Irish company about a possible sponsorship deal that would allow the race to continue, but as no decision has been made by the company she was forced to accept that time had run out.
She added: “We couldn’t drag things out for more weeks.
“We have already waited a long time to try to get something finalised.
“We are open to continuing those talks though, and will do what we can to bring back the international event next year.”