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Clock ticking as An Post Chainreaction team seeks new sponsor

Team boss Kurt Bogaerts says urgent negotiations are continuing with two companies

Sam Bennett: benefitted form his spell with the An Post Chainreaction team. Photograph: Ciaran Fallon/Inpho

The Sean Kelly-backed An Post Chainreaction team is at a crucial point with regards its future, with time getting tight in terms of it being able to continue in 2018.

The squad has played a vital role for Irish cycling for over a decade, helping riders such as Sam Bennett, Matt Brammeier and Ryan Mullen to high-level pro careers and big international results. However the decision of An Post to stop its backing due to its tough financial circumstances has meant that the team is chasing a replacement sponsor.

Team manager Kurt Bogaerts addressed the matter on Thursday.

“We are in negotiations with two companies,” he said. “They are looking at the file and they will come back in the next two weeks. That is where they are at.

“One company is Irish, the other is Spanish. Both are keen to grow outside their home countries, and the team should offer a lot of brand awareness and publication in relation to that.”

Bogaerts said that the feedback has been positive, both because of the strength of what the team is offering and also because of Kelly’s connection to the squad and what that brings. However he noted that there are time pressures and that there is a November 1st deadline for registration with cycling’s world governing body, the UCI.

Eight riders

Prior to that, the team needs to have eight riders on its books to be able to proceed with registration, meaning that things need to be nailed down in the coming weeks.

Bogaerts is hoping that is an agreement is reached soon with at least one of the two companies; in the meantime, he is also open to approaches from other potential backers.

“It is really a question of timing. There is confidence on my side that it will happen, that these companies will go into cycling with us. But the question is if it will be for the coming season or not? These companies are looking at what we are offering and it remains to be seen how quickly they can come to a decision. It would be a shame if the team could not continue in 2018.”

If the team were to stop, even for a season, it would have a big impact on Irish cycling.

It would cut off a very important stepping stone between amateur and professional careers. As Bogaert notes, riders such as Bennett might not have made it as professionals had they not had an Irish team to work with.

The Carrick-on-Suir rider clearly had considerable talent, but struggled with injury for several seasons and received a lot of assistance that he might not have had with a foreign squad. He went on to win a stage of the Tour of Britain and move on to a top-level career with the Bora-hansgrohe team, winning professional races and taking four top-three finishes in this year’s Giro d’Italia.