Jonny Bellis signs with An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team
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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Jonny Bellis signs with An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team

by Shane Stokes at 7:14 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Mark McNally returning after Europcar disappointment, Jon Mould comes on board

Jonny BellisFollowing a search for a replacement team for 2012, former Saxo Bank SunGard rider Johnny Bellis will line out as part of the An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team next season, having a chance to rebuild his career with the Irish-sponsored, Belgium-based squad.

General manager Kurt Bogaerts confirmed the signing to VeloNation today, saying that he was convinced that the team would prove to be the perfect environment for Bellis to come back to his former level. The 23 year old Manxman finished third in the Under 23 world road race championships in 2007 and later signed a contract with the Saxo Bank team. However in September 2009 he crashed heavily while on a motor scooter in Italy, suffering a brain injury and spending time in a coma.

Since then he has been trying to return to full fitness.

Bogaerts’ belief that Bellis will be in the right team stems from the fact that it competes at the Continental level, but gets invites to major races such as the Tours of Qatar, Oman and Belgium. Its ranking enables it to ride smaller races in Europe, while its connections to Sean Kelly and its strong reputation allows it access to some of the top races in cycling.

This means that Bogaerts and Bellis can carefully chose the races which best suit the rider as he builds his condition. He will also have a chance to compete far more often than has been the case since his crash.

“Everybody knows what happened to Jonny,” Bogaerts told VeloNation, referring to his accident. “There were a lot of complications in the last two years. But for me, this is someone I followed already from his youth when he was going well. When I was at the world championships with the Irish team, I saw him finish third there. I know he has a really good potential.

“He hasn’t really had much of a chance in the past two years as he has hardly raced. I’ve seen what happened with a big team like Saxo Bank. It is difficult to get back into the right races there, and the tests we have done show that he needs to get a good base of regular racing.

“I think we can be a really good solution for Johnny to get back on the right level. It will take a long time, but I wouldn’t go for it if I didn’t believe it was possible.”

Bellis said in his VeloNation blog last month that it was crucial for him to have a more regular programme than he had with Saxo Bank. “What I need now is to get back into the routine of some racing. This year I’ve done very little racing,” he stated. “You hear some of the top guys say that when they have two weeks away from racing it is a lot to them. For me, I don’t race for five or six weeks, then I’m up against those who are racing. It’s been tough.

“I’ve had so little racing that I feel a good programme would bring me on a lot and help me get there. I am determined to do it…it’s just this final step I need to overcome.”

McNally and Mould in, Lavery out:

In a statement, the team has also announced the signings of the Britons Mark McNally and Jon Mould. McNally had a very strong season with the team in 2011, riding well in a range of races and winning the Mi-Aout en Bretagne, and was due to move to the Europcar team. However the French squad was denied a place in the WorldTour and cannot now take on extra riders, meaning that McNally must wait another year.

“I have mixed emotions about Mark coming back,” said Bogaerts. “On one hand it’s good to have him back but I really feel with his results last year he deserved to join a professional team. Of course I’m happy he will be riding for us again and he will be very important to the team.”

Welshman Mould is 20 years of age and has been a member of British Cycling’s Olympic Academy programme. He is a former junior European track champion represented Great Britain at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last year.

“Jon has a lot of potential and I hope we can develop him into a great road rider,” said Bogaerts. “He’s got an excellent track background and as I’ve said before he is the type of young rider which we have been following for a while now.”

Meanwhile the Belgian confirmed that Philip Lavery would not be part of the team in 2012. The Dubliner has made the decision to move elsewhere, with that team yet to be confirmed. “Philip was unlucky with us last season and he got injuries at bad times,” said Bogaerts. “Maybe he will return to us at some stage, but I wish him all the best wherever he goes.”

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