Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Tour of the North race saved days after being cancelled

The 2014 Tour of the North cycle race is back ON.

The sensational turnaround comes just days after it was announced that Northern Ireland's top annual cycling race had been cancelled because organisers had failed to secure government funding to run the event.

Taking the "extremely reluctant decision" to call it off, Race Director Anthony Mitchell stepped down from his position sparking fears for the future of the race.

But now Ballymena lady Joan McCullough, whose family have a long time association with the Tour of the North, has become the new Race Director and will work alongside her dad Alan Mark, who previously organised the event, to ensure the 50th running of the four day road race goes ahead over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend on April 18-21.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Joan revealed that Ballymena Council are set to step in to help fund the race, which has P & O Ferries as its title sponsor.

She said: "We have a new committee on board and are taking over the running of the event. We have spoken to Ballymena Council and it looks like they will be funding us which is brilliant news.

"We did not want to lose what is a great event and have decided to try and run it. Hopefully we will have the same quality of race that there has been previously."

Despite the cancellation announcement, the new Race Director believes they can still attract 150 riders to compete in the race.

Ironically it was the millions of pounds of public money spent in bringing the Giro here, meaning no government cash was available for the domestic race, that led to the initial cancellation.

Online entry for Tour of the North competitors will be open in the next few weeks.

* MARK Cavendish has set his sights on wearing the yellow jersey when the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire this summer.

The Manx sprinter has won 25 Tour stages, claiming the green jersey for winning the points classification in 2011.

The 2014 edition of the race gets under way on July 5, with the first stage going from Leeds to Harrogate, and Cavendish is desperate to claim victory on a route that is set up for the sprinters and wear yellow, if only for a day.

"If I had to choose one stage of the 21 in the Tour, that's got to be it," he said.

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