Darach McQuaid, brother of former UCI president Pat McQuaid, is charged with marketing the race’s brief stint on the island next week through his Dublin-based company Shadetree Sports.
The last cycling event of this magnitude in Ireland was the 1998 Tour de France, an event marred by the competitors’ rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs.
“We’ve done incredible to get it this far because this is a project years in the making and initial discussions [were] in 2009,” McQuaid said. “So it’s a great chance for us north and south of the border and we’re hoping the legacy of the Giro will have a few positive effects.
“Hopefully it will be a catalyst to get the Tour of Ireland going again [after it ended in 2009] and I’m very happy to report we’re dealing with brands North and South who are showing an appetite to get it up and running.
“I’m also very confident that the business community now sees the potential [of cycling] and are becoming more and more involved while on a filtered-down level, hopefully the race can inspire a generation and we can get more riders into the sport and at that top level. Philip Deignan [Team Sky] came here in 1998 to watch the Tour de France, became hooked and is now starting one of the world’s biggest races.”
With just over a week to go to the Grand Partenza in Belfast, McQuaid believes everything is now in place.
“Things are in really good shape, particularly in Northern Ireland. They’ve taken this up in a fantastic way, not just the big shots from the government but businesses, councils, ordinary people. Everyone understands it, gets it and is running with it.
“There’s been some talk about whether the North has done more and gone faster than the South, but naturally they’re putting a lot more money in. Having said that, it’s going to be one of the biggest events of the year in the Republic and we’re finishing it at an iconic location in front of Government Buildings. It’s going to be gorgeous.”
After five years of work McQuaid is thrilled that the finishing line is now in sight.
“I’m very satisfied, I must admit. December 2009 was the first time I met the Italians over this in Milan. That’s a long time ago and I’m very satisfied with what has been done. The Italians are happy, they’ve brought their beautiful baby over here. It’s one thing having a dream and trying to persuade people that it’s possible but I was very gratified last week when we had one of many Giro delegations over and they were delighted with the plans.
“I was driving up to Belfast with the boss of the Giro in the car next to me and he had a telephone interview with Gazzetta dello Sport and he couldn’t have been more wholesome in his praise for the work that’s being done and he was saying this might even set a new standard and a new benchmark for Giro starts.”
Meanwhile, Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) won a shortened stage one of the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland yesterday. The Swiss rider timed his effort to perfection in the frenetic finale to beat Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) into Sion on a stage shortened to just 88km due to snow on the Simplon Pass.
Ireland’s Nicolas Roche finished 18th on the stage, four seconds back and is now 33rd overall, 24 seconds down.
Today’s second stage takes the riders 166 kilometres from Sion to Montreux and features two third cat climbs.