by Sean Moriarty
Nicolas Roche, Ireland’s only competitor in this year’s Tour de France, says the time is right for the World’s biggest cycling race to return to Ireland.
Based on the success of the Tour’s three-day visit to Britain weekend, Leeds, Harrogate, Cambridge and London each hosted stage starts or finishes, and the success of the Giro D’Italia visit to Belfast and Dublin in May, Roche says it would be a dream come true to race on Irish roads.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators turned out in Yorkshire Cambridgeshire to witness the 180 rides and the associated publicity caravan pass along the three stages between Saturday and Monday.
Thousands more were on the sidewalks of the capital, the stage finished along the mall in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, where the crowds were bigger than the free events during the Olympics of 2012.
Two months ago, The Giro D’Italia started with a time trial on the streets of Belfast and included road stages north and south of the border. Crowds at the Italian event greatly exceeded organisers expectations too and all of this, and the success of Irish stars abroad, like Roche, has created a positivity to bring the Tour de France to Ireland in the near future.
Speaking to the Irish World at the stage finish in London on Monday afternoon Roche said: “The Grand Depart of the Giro was a huge success and the stages we had here were unbelievable. I don’t think that I anytime on any other races seen as many people as over the last few days.
“I would defiantly support [attempts to bring the Tour to Ireland] The start of the Giro is an experience I will never forget and to have the start of the Tour there would be another dream come true.
Roche, who is the son of 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen is of several Irish riders making a name for themselves on the professional cycling circuit. Others include his cousin Dan Martin and former Irish under-age champion Sam Bennett.
The last time the Tour visited Ireland was in 1998 were route directors paid homage to Ireland huge cycling history by ensuring the stages passed close to Dundrum , Killmacanogue and Carrick-on-Suir, towns closely linked with Irish heroes like Stephen Roche, Shay Elliott and Sean Kelly.