In a hotel appropriately called the Shamrock, Sean Kelly’s UCI team, AnPost, was launched on Thursday in Belgium. With a team of 18 riders and based in Belgium, the squad has a multi-national line-up headed up by former Belgian champion, Niko Eeckhout.
Above: The 2012 An Post team flanked by team boss Sean Kelly (left) and Kurt Bogaerts (manager, right).
Riders for 2012 are: Gediminas Bagdonas, Jonny Bellis, Sam Bennett, Mark Cassidy, Mark Christian, Sean Downey, Niko Eeckhout, Stijn Ennekens, Pieter Ghyllebert, Roy Jans, Scott Law (not at the launch), Jon Mould, Connor McConvey, Ronan Mclaughlin, Mark McNally, Jorn Segers, Kenneth Vanbilsen and Wytinck Neils.
VeloUK travelled to the race with the bike sponsor, Terry Dolan along with the GB Academy director sportif, Keith Lambert. At the launch, the riders were introduced to the assembled audience of friends and sponsors of the team as well as press from Ireland, Belgium and the UK. One by one, the riders were asked to say a few words in English and in the case of Nico Eeckhout, in Flemish too.
Above: The Dolan Ares which is the bike to be used by the An Post team. It’s equipped with SRAM Red.
As well as Dolan Arez bikes equipped with SRAM Red, the team has a strong British connection with four riders on the roster, Mark McNally, Jonny Bellis, Mark Christian and Jon Mould. In the past, British riders such as Matt Brammeier and Dan Lloyd have come through the team on their way to bigger squads and a number from An Post, McNally and Bagdonas among them, may well have gone to bigger teams had those oufits been able to expand or in the case of Geox, survive the problems teams had in 2011.
One of the hot properties at the moment, after two victories in the Challenge Mallorca, Andy Fenn, rode for the team last year and while team boss Sean Kelly is delighted at his success, he can’t help but feel a second year with Andy would have been great for both rider and his team.
A second place for Niko Eeckhout in the Besseges stage race, is a reminder of how the team is still well capable of competing against higher ranked squads and with around fifteen UCI wins in 2011, Sean Kelly says the aim is to do even better in 2012. For British fans, their stage victory and Sprints jersey in the Tour of Britain showed that even against WorldTour teams, AnPost has the firepower to win major races.
L-R: Sean Kelly, Mark Christian, Jonny Bellis, Mark McNally, Jon Mould and Terry Dolan with the team’s Dolan Ares bike with SRAM red groupset.
The Sean Kelly team started out as a development academy with the aim of helping riders from Ireland and other countries, to realise their ambitions in cycling and a chance at riding for the top teams in the World.
In an interview to come on VeloUK, Kelly admits that he would be like to move up a level to UCI Pro Continental whilst still helping riders fulfil their dreams on the road. Even without that status, being a Belgian registered team, An Post already has a very attractive race programme consisting of semi classics and UCI 2.1 and 2.2 events.
Their next event is the Tour of Algarve which will see them competing against many of the Worlds top teams and they follow that event with classics such as Kuurne-Brussell-Kuurne on the same weekend as Het Volk. The An Post programme is largely based in France, Belgium and Holland with other events in Germany and in Britain including a big target, the Tour of Britain at the latter end of the season.
We’ll have some interviews from the launch to come on VeloUK.
Mark Christian tells the audience of his ambitions in his first pro team, An Post.
GB Academy director sportif Keith ‘legs’ Lambert talks to two Academy riders who have signed for An Post in 2012, Mark Christian of the Isle of Man (left) and Jon Mould (Wales).
Sean Kelly with Terry Dolan and the bike they will be using for the season, the Dolan Ares in special colours for the team, a frame that is available to the general public.
An icon in the sport, Sean Kelly, introduces the team alongside his team manager Kurt Bogaerts.
Supplier of the bikes, Terry Dolan, shares a joke with the Jonny Bellis, Mark McNally, Mark Christian as Irish Under 23 champion Sam Bennett looks on.
Sean Kelly and Kurt Bogaerts with the Irish riders in the team.