Tour de France: Withdrawal of joint bid by Northern Ireland and Republic 'a real kick in the teeth'

The withdrawal of an all-Ireland bid to host the opening stages of the Tour de France in 2026-27 has been described as a "kick in the teeth" by lovers of the sport.

Officials in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland first discussed making the joint bid back in 2022.

Part of the drive behind the venture - the joint success from hosting Giro d'Italia in 2014.

Memories of that event are still very fresh in the mind of bicycle mechanic Glenn Kinning.

"The crowds were two or three lines deep, from the Newtownards Road right up to the top of the hill of Stormont," he told UTV.

During the event, Glenn said his bike shop in east Belfast "got a lot of guys coming in looking for bikes, who wanted to get in to cycling, but hadn't done it before.

"They weren't looking to go hundreds of miles, just to go along the Greenway," he added.

"There has been a hit in cycling at the minute," says Glenn, something he puts down to a "lack of events and the roads not being in great nick".

In a statement to UTV, the Department for the Economy (DfE) outlined the reasons behind the bid withdrawal.

“Unfortunately, due to funding reductions this year and a lack of certainty about the budget position in future years, the DfE had to take the decision that it could not progress to the development of a feasibility study for the all-island bid to host the Tour De France, Le Grand Départ in 2026 or 2027.

“The Department does not rule out taking part in a future feasibility assessment of co-hosting this event, should the opportunity arise.”

Meanwhile the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media told UTV that it was advised of the DfE's funding pressures in July 2023.

"Accordingly, given that the project was envisaged as a north-south all-island initiative, the Department is not in a position to proceed beyond the planning stage at this time but will maintain contact with the Tour de France organisers with a view to a potential future bid," it added.

"The Tour de France organisers are aware of this position and of the Department’s openness to reviving the joint-hosting proposal at a future point."

Beyond bringing bikes to these shores, the Giro d'Italia also brought an economic boost to local businesses.

"Tourism, globally, is very competitive and you need to have continual presence," said Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster.

"Until we get a budget sorted out, there is nothing that can be done and nothing we can go for.

"We all want the executive back and hopefully that can happen," he added.

The withdrawal of the joint bid, a puncture for business and enthusiasts.

"It is a kick in the teeth," said Glenn. "Cycling suffers at the best of times so to have this happen is hard."

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