An Post Sean Kelly team aiming for Tour of Belgium wildcard
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

An Post Sean Kelly team aiming for Tour of Belgium wildcard

by Shane Stokes at 9:47 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour of Belgium
 
Squad relies on invites for top races

An Post Sean Kelly teamThe An Post Grant Thornton M. Donnelly Sean Kelly team is hopeful that it will secure a wildcard invitation to the Tour of Belgium this week, seeking to edge in ahead of some bigger teams. The squad’s chances are boosted by Sean Kelly’s close ties to the team, their aggressive performance in races, and also the presence of former Belgian champion Niko Eeckhout in the lineup. Although he is now 40 years of age, he remains someone who has the ability and character to scoop important wins.

“It looks quite good that we can start,” general manager Kurt Bogaerts told VeloNation. “That will be finalised in the next two days. There are so many teams who want to race, so we’ll have to see. For us, it is important that we do it….there are only five people in the An Post Rás [which takes place at the same time], so having two events is a big plus.”

Thanks to Kelly’s connections, the An Post Sean Kelly team got important wildcard invites earlier this year when it competed in the Tours of Qatar and Oman. It rode aggressively, having riders clear on many of the stages, and attracted praise for its attitude.

Bogaerts expects that the team will remain at a Continental level in 2012. It has an ongoing deal with An Post but is open to getting more sponsorship; in the current economic climate, though, that’s something that takes time to arrange, and he’s unsure if enough backing would be in place next season to step up level.

“We’ll have to see, but it could be more likely that we are Continental again,” he said. “We hope to get the same invites. It’s been more difficult this year to get into some races, although it balances out over time. It is not that easy any more as there are more Pro Continental teams, especially in Belgium where we are based. For example, Steve Bauer’s team [Spidertech] was here for three of four months. You also have Net App, the American team [Team Type 1]…they are all based in Belgium to do these races. It was not like that before. That said, we still got a lot of entries…the most of any Continental team.”

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