Video: An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team pushing for Pro Continental licence
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Video: An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team pushing for Pro Continental licence

by Shane Stokes at 10:41 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
General manager Bogaerts talks about future of project

Kurt BogaertsAfter several years racing with a Continental licence, an Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team manager Kurt Bogaerts has said that important talks will soon take place in relation to the team’s ambition to step it up a level next season.

Bogaerts confirmed to VeloNation that he hopes to race under a Pro Continental licence in 2013. “We are really working hard to make the project bigger. I am quite ambitious in that, everyone knows,” he said in the video interview below, carried out on Sunday’s final day of the An Post Rás. “I think we are close to succeeding in that next step. I think in the next couple of weeks we will have some crucial meetings. At the end of the day it will happen, I am quite confident in that.”

Such an expansion would ramp up the costs of the project, not least because of the minimum wage requirements it would involve. The team has a strong title in place in the shape of An Post, the Irish national postal service, but would need additional budget. Asked if he saw the expansion take place via greater input from current sponsors, the acquisition of additional backers or a merger with another existing team, he declined to get into specifics.

“We have different tracks that we are working on. I leave everything open, I can’t say much about it,” he said. “Around the time of the nationals we will have an idea if it is working out for next year or the year after.”

An Post Sean KellyThe team was originally set up as a development squad for young Irish riders, although it has increasingly featured riders from Belgium and other countries too. Several WorldTour riders spent their early years with the team, including current Omega Pharma Quick Step riders Matt Brammeier and Andy Fenn, who raced there in 2011.

Because the team has a very strong roster despite being a Continental level squad, and due to the presence of well regarded riders such as former Belgian champion Niko Eeckout, it tends to get a considerable number of high level invitations. It has raced this year in events such as the Tour of Belgium, the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, Kuurne - Brussel – Kuurne, the Volta ao Algarve and more; last year it won stages in the Tour of Britain, the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen and other events.

However, because of its Continental licence, it is also able to compete in smaller events which are perfect for developing young riders and which are closed to Pro Continental teams. Bogaert knows that a step up in level would prevent the team from taking part in these development races; because of that, he confirms that he wants to have a two level system.

“I would like to keep the full project going…this is really going well. I was with four young Irish guys here [at the An Post Rás] and it really worked out well. It is a priority for me to keep this continuing. What I want to have is a pro continental and a continental team.”

The feeling that the team is ready to step up a level is backed up by its position in the UCI Europe Tour rankings. It is currently fourteenth out of 110 ranked teams, and is third of the Continental squads. In addition to that, its chief points scorer Gediminas Bagdonas is eleventh in the individual rankings, with his two stage wins in the An Post Rás adding to his points haul.

Expansion aside, Bogaerts is clear on what he wants to achieve in the shorter term. “I would like us to continue what we are doing, winning races,” he said. “We always try in in each situation to win races, and that is what we will keep aiming to do. Of course we have a few major goals such as the nationals in different countries. Then at the end of the year we’d like to do a good Tour of Britain again.”


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