Sean Kelly: Jonny Bellis can return to top form, win races again
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Sean Kelly: Jonny Bellis can return to top form, win races again

by Shane Stokes at 9:39 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Classics king has faith in his team’s new signing

Jonny BellisFormer world number one Sean Kelly has given a big vote of confidence to the Manx rider Jonny Bellis, stating that he believes he will succeed in his bid to rebuild top form after his a serious crash in September 2009.

Bellis has been battling for over two years to regain the condition which saw him clock up a bronze medal in the 2007 world under 23 championships; Kelly believes if he works hard, he’ll start clocking up victories again.

“I feel going ahead that he will win races…if he gets it together, he could do really well,” said Kelly to VeloNation.

“He is a talented guy and I think he can come back. He has come a long way, he did okay this year, and he will improve again next season.”

Kelly is often regarded as a good judge of a rider’s condition and potential. Apart from being one of the most successful riders of all time, he is also a successful Eurosport commentator with a knack of calling things correctly.

Bellis is now part of his An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team, and he’ll help guide him in the months ahead.

Still just 23 years of age, the Manxman’s battle began when he crashed hard off a scooter in September 2009 and nearly died. He sent time in a coma and gradually recovered from a head injury plus a bad infection. His return was complicated by a hernia but he made progress in 2011, competing in several races.

However a sporadic programme meant that he found himself in a vicious circle; he needed regular racing to sharpen up, but because he wasn’t performing in the events, his Saxo Bank SunGard team didn’t give him much selection.

His contract ultimately wasn’t renewed, and he ended up signing for the An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team.

Kelly believes he’s a good signing, but explained that the deal nearly didn’t happen. “Kurt [Bogaerts, general manager] was really interested in taking Jonny – I would have been as well, but we are always limited with the budget. The more riders you have, it costs that bit more, you need more bikes, you have all that structure.

“But British cycling were pushing us, asking us to give him a chance, and Kurt was really keen as well. He said that anyone coming from a situation like that always wins races. If you look at Lance, he came back, if you look at Contador, he came back. Kurt was reeling them off to me…there was another one or two riders he mentioned to me. So Kurt was really keen on taking on Jonny, and believed he could do it.

“I think he can get back to his old level. I am very happy with the team that we worked it out, and with Terry Dolan as well, as he agreed to give us extra bikes. We went over the number of riders by about three, so that is immediate six bikes from our bike supplier…Terry was very helpful.”

The An Post team is a Continental outfit, considerably smaller than Bellis’ Saxo Bank SunGard. However it punches above its weight, getting invites in 2011 to races like the Tours of Qatar, Oman and Belgium, with the team’s aggressive nature plus Kelly’s name and reputation helping seal interest.

This gives it a very varied race programme, enabling it to enter local Belgian races as well as line out alongside WorldTour teams.

This will be of major benefit to Bellis, who will work closely with Bogaerts and Kelly in deciding which races to do. He can start racing regularly at a slightly lower level than in 2011, then when his form returns, step things up. Kelly believes this is going to be a key factor.

“The Saxo Bank SunGard team were doing a lot of races at a high level, and when you are coming back from the injury he had, it’s very tough. He also had a hernia too, which upset his recovery. Next season will be better for Jonny, and he’ll have a good programme to build back up. If he works hard, he’ll be winning again.”

Also see: Jonny Bellis’ recent blog about moving to the An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team


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