*Photograph: Gruber Images
Clare has put its hand up to host a stage of the Tour de France.
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Cllr Cathal Crowe (FF) put the wheels in motion when he proposed that they liaise with other local authorities in the West of Ireland, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the French Embassy in Dublin and Honorary French Consult for the Mid-West of Ireland, Loic Guyon to see a stage of the world renown cycling tournament take place along the Wild Atlantic Way. Director of Rural Development, Leonard Cleary confirmed they discuss the proposal with Fáilte Ireland as “a starting point”.
Describing it as “one of the greatest sporting events in the world”, Cllr Crowe felt Clare should take advantage of the growing trend in moving stages outside of France. The tournament was first held in 1903. In 1998 the opening stage of the race, known as ‘La Grand Départ’, was held in Dublin and a further stage took place along a 205km route from Enniscorthy to Cork.
He commented, “The Wild Atlantic Way traverses some of the most beautiful parts of Ireland and encompasses nine counties. In its five years of existence, the Wild Atlantic Way has been heavily marketed by Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland and is now regarded as one the great scenic road routes of the world. Many of the current crop of elite cyclists competing in the Tour de France are familiar with the cycling opportunities that Clare and the West of Ireland offers. For six consecutive years the Junior Tour of Ireland has been held in Clare. International cyclists have arrived in their droves to compete in what is a prestigious event in the world junior cycling circuit”.
“I am certain that Clare and the neighbouring counties of Limerick, Galway and Kerry have the capacity to show leadership in potentially bringing the Tour de France back to Ireland,” the General Election candidate added.
Regular cyclist, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) seconded the motion. “The Tour de France is a massive event in the sporting diary attracting millions of viewers every summer. The Wild Atlantic Way and bringing Clare in would be fantastic”.
“We have proven in Clare we can support the running of major events. This is a great opportunity for Government agencies to support the west of Ireland. We can show the world what we have. Tour de France is for cycling what Wimbledon is for tennis, it is a world event. You have to let a positive seed filter through the different agencies,” Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) remarked. Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross would have “a big say” in such a move and Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) requested Cllr Crowe write to him regarding the proposal.
Cllr Pat Daly (FF) warned, “The Wild Atlantic Way runs from Donegal to Kerry, the motion would be useless if Clare were not involved”. “It is important for the Council to step outside of its comfort zone, like we did for The Irish Open,” Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) stated.
Co Clare cannot just be used for the location, Cllr Cillian Murphy (FF) stressed. “It’s our remit that the benefit comes here. It shouldn’t be hosted in Galway and they just use the roads in Clare, it is important that we’re not used”. Cllr Roisin Garvey (GP) felt greater benefit would result from a permanent greenway in the county, “There will be one million bednights in Waterford next year from their greenway, I will continue to talk about this at Municipal District and Council level until we get one, it is something we need to focus on. It is viable for them to do the stage from Dublin or Cork while using our roads”.
Council Chief Executive, Pat Dowling was adamant they would take the lead if the idea was progressed. “There is no doubt the Wild Atlantic Way would be a spectacular setting, we would be supportive of the motion. We will debate it with our colleagues to see if we can advance it. If we lead it, we will own it”.