Cy­cling:

Brexit and cri­sis in Cat­alo­nia among fac­tors that ‘made it dif­fi­cult for us’

The Irish Times - - Front Page - SHANE STOKES

The An Post Chain­re­ac­tion Sean Kelly team will not com­pete in 2018 as it hasn’t been able to se­cure a spon­sor in time for the sea­son:

The An Post Chain­re­ac­tion Seán Kelly team’s search for a new ti­tle spon­sor shifted fo­cus yes­ter­day, with the Ir­ish team ac­cept­ing it was too late 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.

Big­gest prob­lem

“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.”

In a state­ment Kelly and Bo­gaerts said: “It has been our plea­sure to work with tal­ented rid­ers and to see them suc­ceed and de­velop. 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.”

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 Prze­mek Kasperkiewicz and Re­gan Gough.

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.

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.

Sean Kelly: “Brexit was the big­gest prob­lem. No­body knows what’s hap­pen­ing”

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