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An Post Chainreaction team bow out of 2018 season due to lack of sponsors

Brexit and crisis in Catalonia ‘made it difficult for us’, says team founder Seán Kelly

An Post Chainreaction team: Matthew Teggart, Seán McKenna, Seán Kelly, Damien Shaw and Conor Hennebry at the 2017 team launch in Calpe, Spain. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The An Post Chainreaction Seán Kelly team’s search for a new title sponsor shifted focus on Monday, with the Irish team accepting that it was too late to be able to secure backing for the 2018 season. The squad had been supported by An Post since 2008 but, following an announcement in May that the company was ending its backing for financial reasons, team founders Seán Kelly and Kurt Bogaerts began searching elsewhere.

The duo told The Irish Times in recent weeks that they were negotiating with Irish and Spanish companies. While those talks continue, time has run out for 2018. The registration deadline with cycling’s governing body, the UCI, is looming and, equally importantly, riders and current equipment sponsors need to be told if the team will continue or not. Delaying any longer would affect their chances of being part of the peloton next season.

“Brexit was the biggest problem,” said Kelly, speaking about factors that complicated the search. “Nobody knows what is happening. ‘We are not sure where it is going’ – that was the quote from a lot of people. That didn’t help our situation at all.”

The team was also in talks with a company in Barcelona; Kelly said the political situation there also made things difficult. “The Catalan thing blew up as well and that definitely caused problems too. In between Brexit and Catalonia, it really made it difficult for us.”

The team made its debut in 2006 and has landed a number of important results since then. Aside from stage wins and two overall successes at home in the An Post Rás, its riders won stages in races such as the Tour of Britain, Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, the Étoile de Bessèges, and the Tour d’Azerbaïdjan. They also took victory in the Grote Prijs Stad Zottegem, the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen, the Ronde de l’Oise and Schaal Sels, and also helped many riders to WorldTour and Pro Continental careers.

“It has been our pleasure to work with talented riders and to see them succeed and develop,” said Kelly and Bogaerts in a press statement. “We created an environment which nurtured honest hard work combined with determination. This facilitated the progression of Irish riders like Sam Bennett, Ryan Mullen, Conor Dunne and Matt Brammeier, each of whom made the transition to the top levels of our sport, along with riders from other nations such as Gediminas Bagdonas, Aaron Gate, Shane Archbold, and our most recent success story, Przemek Kasperkiewicz.”

The squad had four Irish riders this year, namely Conor Hennebry, Seán McKenna, Damien Shaw and Matthew Teggart. The latter won a stage in the An Post Rás, as did foreign riders Kasperkiewicz and Regan Gough.

Sponsorship deal

Bogaerts and Kelly both told The Irish Times that chasing a sponsorship deal over the coming months is now the new focus. “I want to continue conversations with both companies,” said Bogaerts, referring to those the team had been speaking to in Ireland and Barcelona. “I want to continue conversations and want to see the clearer picture and what is possible with certain budgets.”

He said returning at a higher Pro Continental status is the priority, a step which would see the team at the same level as the Irish Aqua Blue Sport team.

That has long been a goal and now, with more time to work on sealing a deal, the team’s year out might have some positives.