Team An Post moving closer to a step up
Kelly’s riders continue to impress on world stage
General manager Kurt Bogaerts (left) and team director Sean Kelly of An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly Team. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile.
Building on what was the team’s best season ever, the An Post Chainreaction Seán Kelly team has said that it is moving closer to a possible step up to the Pro Continental level in 2015.
The team, which has taken out Irish registration for 2014 after several years racing as a Belgian Continental-level outfit, is in negotiations with a number of potential sponsors. It could in theory make the jump to an even bigger team in less than 12 months.
According to general manager Kurt Bogaerts, discussions are progressing and a final decision about whether or not such a move is feasible will be made in May.
“If we move up to the next level we want to do it properly,” said Bogaerts at the team launch in Tielt, Belgium, yesterday. “We are aiming to have a good budget of four to five million euro, something which will enable us to really build and to compete well against the big squads.
“We are having a number of different talks at the moment and hopefully something will be concluded by the end of May. That’s the deadline we have set for ourselves for next year.”
The team had a very strong season in 2013 with a number of important results. Best of those was Sam Bennett’s superb stage win in the Tour of Britain last September. In addition to hitting the line first out of a select group on stage five to Caerphilly, he was also second on stages two and eight.
As a result of that he secured a two-year contract with the NetApp Endura. He has already shown his potential with the German squad, winning the Clasica de Almeria in Spain on Sunday.
“Sam’s performances were very good, both for him and also for the riders on this team who raced alongside him last year,” said former world number one Seán Kelly, the team director.
“He had some tough times over the years due to injury, but they saw him turn that around and to succeed. That’s very encouraging for the other riders as it helps them to believe that they too might step up.”
A total of five Irish riders will race with the squad this year, with the An Post Rás and national championships being major goals for those.
Returning from last year’s line-up is Sean Downey and national under 23 champion Jack Wilson, while Ryan Mullen, Marcus Christie and Conor Dunne are joining.
The squad also includes former Irish competitor Robert Jon McCarthy, now racing for Australia, plus 10 other internationals.