Team Sky's Russ Downing misses chance to defend title...

Team Sky’s Russ Downing will miss out on the chance to defend his Tour of Ireland title this year after organisers pulled the plug on the race as a result of a funding shortfall. 

 The Irish Independent reports that while the Irish tourist board, Failte Ireland, had pledged to continue supporting the race, organisers had decided to cancel the event due to being unable to raise the full €1.5 million required to stage it.

Last year was the third edition of the race after it was revived in 2007 following a 17-year absence from the calendar and it attracted a host of star names including Lance Armstrong, although the overall victory went to Downing, then riding with Candi TV-Marshalls Pasta.

The economic recession meant that last year’s race had to be shortened to three days instead of the scheduled five, and although race director Alan Rushton though about doing likewise this year, in the end it was decided to cancel the race.

Rushton told the Irish Independent: “You can't economise on safety. You also need television coverage. In the current economic climate it has proven impossible to gather sufficient sponsorship to cover the cost of the race and organise it in the manner that is required of a world-class event.”

He continued:"We need to start working now for 2011. We fully intend to bring the race back when the private sector environment is stronger."

Irish National Road Race Champion and AG2R La Mondiale rider Nicolas Roche regretted the decision not to hold the race this year, but was hopeful that it would return in the future. "It's a real pity, as it had just made its comeback after all those years," he told the newspaper. "It just shows how difficult it is to organise a race of that nature nowadays. Hopefully, it's only a temporary setback."

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.