Ireland has made an early break in the bidding process to host the early stages of the Tour de France at some point in the coming years.
Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin and her Northern Ireland counterpart Gordon Lyons have submitted an all-Ireland expression of interest in the formal bidding process to the Tour de France organisers.
Both Departments will now collaborate on developing a fuller, more detailed bid to host the event – with an eye on either the 2026 or 2027 event.
The bid would be for the opening stages – including the Grand Depart starting stage – of the race.
Ireland hosted the Grand Depart element of the Tour de France once before, back in 1998. It has also hosted – more recently, in 2014 – the third stage of the Giro d’Italia, which mainly visited Northern Ireland, but finished in Dublin.
“Hosting the world’s greatest cycle race would be an exciting opportunity for the island of Ireland. I was delighted to meet Minister Lyons again during my recent trip to Belfast and to agree to express a joint interest in hosting three full stages for Le Grand Départ of the Tour de France, ideally in 2026 or 2027,” Minister Martin said.
“Our shared experience in hosting major sports events, our co-operative approach in marketing the entire island of Ireland as a tourism destination, and the wonderful scenery and céad míle fáilte that awaits visitors to Ireland could all combine to create an amazing all-island event. This collaborative process has my full support and I will engage with colleagues across Government on this in the coming weeks.”
Mr Lyons added: “Securing the opening stages of the Tour de France would be a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland to feature on the world stage and add to the growing list of major sporting events that have come here in recent years. People will fondly remember the success of the Giro d’Italia ‘Big Start’ in 2014, and I am confident that together we would be able to successfully host the Grand Départ. Major events such as this not only bring about huge economic benefits but give us a tremendous opportunity to showcase everything that is great about Northern Ireland.”