Bennett confirmed as staying with An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team in 2013
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Thursday, November 08, 2012

Bennett confirmed as staying with An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team in 2013

by Shane Stokes at 3:56 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Promising young Irish rider remains on board, as do McLaughlin and Downey

Sam BennettRecovering from knee operations which he expects will resolve niggling issues which have affected him at times during the past two seasons, the promising young Irish rider Sam Bennett is preparing for what he hopes will be a breakthrough 2013 season.

The Carrick on Suir rider, who comes from the same hometown as Sean Kelly, has been confirmed today as staying with the latter’s Irish-sponsored, Belgium-based An Post Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team in 2013. Also remaining on board are two other Irish riders, Ronan McLaughlin and Sean Downey, while the incoming Jack Wilson will make it four from that country.

Bennett has for several years been regarded as one of the best prospects from the young generation of Irish riders, and while he lacked a big win this year, he clocked up some very encouraging placings. After netting third in the 1.2 Ronde Van Noord, he was second and third on An Post Rás stages, seventh in the European championships, eighth in the 1.1 GP Stad Zottegem and fifth, sixth and ninth on stages of the Tour of Britain.

Bennett was hampered in the build-up to the finale of the under 23 world championships, losing time and energy when he went off the road on the final lap, but chased back on and managed to take tenth.

It was less than he was capable of but, given the circumstances, nevertheless a strong result.

“It’s fantastic that Ronan, Sam and Sean have committed to the team for another year,” said general manager Kurt Bogaerts. “Sam had some excellent results last season and is back on the bike now following his surgery, so he will be ready for next season which I’m sure will see him progress even further.”

Also hoping to step up a level is the Donegal rider Ronan McLaughlin. He’s three years older than Bennett but continues to improve each season. He almost pulled off a mammoth solo break on a stage of the An Post Rás, being caught with 100 metres to go, and was also one of the most aggressive riders on stages of the Tour of Britain. The latter earned him a place on the Irish team in the world road race championships, where he helped WorldTour competitors Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin.

“Ronan was superb all year,” said Bogaerts, who appreciates the work he did for others. “He was a thorn in the side of the big teams at the Tour of Britain and he proved he can compete with the best so next year will be a very important season for him.

As for Downey, he was in his first year with the team and laid the foundations for progression next year. The 22 year old was fifth in the Irish road race championships, eighth in the 2.2 Kreiz Breizh race and eleventh in the European championship time trial. Bogaerts believes he will be at a higher level in 2013.

“For Sean, it always takes a year or so to settle in and make the transition but I think he has done that really well and with a good winter’s training behind him he can certainly start picking up some results.”

The four Irish riders will meet up with their team-mates at a training camp in Calpe, which starts on December 1st.

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