PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
Twelve years after he retired from professional cycling, former world number one Sean Kelly is regaining direct involvement with the competitive side of the sport as managing director of the Sean Kelly Racing Team. The launch of the team, which will have continental status, took place yesterday in Dublin's Old Jameson Distillery.
Kelly, 49, has stayed in contact with the top level of the sport in recent years through his commentary work with Eurosport, but the new continental set-up marks both his debut in a team managerial role and the debut of Ireland's first team of this type. The squad will be registered in Dublin but work out of the Sean Kelly Cycling Academy base in Merchtem, Belgium.
"This all started off a few years ago when Cycling Ireland decided to set up the academy for young riders in Belgium," Kelly said at the launch, held in Dublin's Old Jameson Distillery. "The Irish Sports Council backed it and now, three years later, we have decided to take things to the next level.
"Myself and the people looking after the riders out there in Belgium felt that now was the time to do something like this. The decision was taken quite late, so there was a bit of debate as to whether we should go for it in 2006 or leave it for another year. In the end, we decided to proceed this season and so we have worked very hard for four months to get things ready."
The team's aim is to take part in UCI-ranked events in Belgium, Germany and further afield, enabling the young Irish riders to take on some big pro names, learn the trade, and, ultimately, progress to ProTour contracts.
The eight Irishmen selected include national under-23 champion Pa¡di O'Brien, promising first-year senior Ciaran Kelly and talented 22-year-old Tim Cassidy, who recorded several good results in France last year while racing with VC La Pomme. Roger Aiken, Mark Cassidy, Andrew McQuaid and the Concannon brothers, Eoin and Miceal, complete the Irish contingent.
Seven Belgian riders have also been signed, helping to add experience to the team. Former Chocolade Jacques rider Jehudi Schoonacker, and ex-Quick Step youth team members Dwight Desaever and Stijn Minne will don the blue and white team kit, as will GP Etienne de Wilde and GP Roger de Vlaeminck winner Peter Schoonjans, sprinter Rieno Stofferis, Bart Cosyn, Harm van de Kerckhove, plus rider/team manager Kurt Bogaerts.
The team is due to take part in a week-long training camp in Benidorm towards the end of January, with their first races to begin in Belgium next month.
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM