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Sam Bennett says though the bid to host the Tour de France in Ireland is on hold for now, the idea is very positive for cycling in Ireland (Photo: Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team)

By Shane Stokes

Although it was confirmed recently that a cross-border bid to bring the Tour de France start to Ireland has been put on ice, Sam Bennett has adopted a ‘glass half-full’ approach to the news.

Speaking to stickybottle, Bennett (Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team) said that while a hoped-for Grand Départ here would not happen in the next three years, he saw positives in the willingness for governments north and south to consider hosting the race.

“It’s fantastic that Ireland has shown an interest like that in cycling,” he said. “And I think it’d also be a great thing for the Irish economy, and also Irish tourism.

“I really think there can be some fantastic stages made in Ireland, and also to bring interest to cycling with the general public in Ireland.”

The bid was first announced back in October 2022, with the governments of the Republic and Northern Ireland expressing an interest in jointly hosting the start of the event in either 2026 or 2027.

However after the latter’s Department of the Economy withdrew last July due to funding pressures, the Irish government decided it was not in a position to go it alone on a Tour start potentially costing between 20 and 30 million.

The project is on hold, but both sides have indicated it could potentially be restarted in the future.

Now 33 years of age, Bennett previously indicated he wants to compete for several more years. But even if a hosting of the Tour were to happen after his retirement, costing him the chance to compete on home soil in the sport’s biggest event, he takes an upbeat view.

“I’m not going to complain that I’m not going to be in it, in that I’m just happy that there’s an interest,” he said.

“But it’s fantastic for the younger guys. I mean, we have three very young Irish guys in EF (Ben Healy, Archie Ryan and Darren Rafferty – ed). We have Eddie Dunbar, and Ryan (Mullen) will also be around.

“So we’re going to have a lot of top Irish pros that will be coming into their best years, which will be fantastic for them.”

Even if things are on hold for now, he regards the initial interest as boding well for another future bid. “It’s really positive thing. It’s a great thing.”

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