The An Post sponsored Seán Kelly Cycling team presented its 2010 line-up on Tuesday. The team, with 18 total riders, announced 10 new signings.
Irish team members Páidi O'Brien, Mark Cassidy, David O'Loughlin, Matt Brammeier and Ronan McLaughlin will all return from 2009. Notable new addition, Belfast man Connor McConvey, who has made the switch from mountain biking to road racing, will add to the ranks.
"I'm really looking forward to pushing on this year with the An Post team," O'Brien said. "The training camp in Calpe went particularly well, and I get the feeling that this is the best shape the team has ever been in."
O'Brien's statement was backed up by the blistering start to the season which included last Sunday's Etoile de Bessèges stage win for Belgian rider Niko Eeckhout, who renewed with the team for 2010. New signing Pieter Ghyllebert, a fellow Belgian, finished third overall in the same race.
Ghyllabert is one of eight new Belgian riders to join the team in 2010, including Maxim Debusschere, Stijn Minne, Kim Borry, Gil Suray, Bjorn Brems, Pascal Hossay, and Brice Scholten. They join existing team members Eeckhout, Kenny Lisabeth and Benny De Shrooder to make up a strong Belgian contingent. Liverpudlian Mark McNally, a former Gold medallist at the European Junior European Track Championships, completes the line up having joined from UK professional outfit Halfords-Bikehut.
The team finished a two-week training camp in Calpe in Southern Spain last month, and their 2010 campaign commenced at the end of January with a positive showing at GP Marseillaise in France, followed by the Tour Etoile de Bessèges. The team will be back in action on February 17 at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal.
The An Post squad will return to Ireland for the nation's top races, the Rás, Tour of Ireland and national championships.
"Our schedule for 2010 is now complete and we will be returning to Ireland for the FBD Rás on the May 23," said team director Seán Kelly "It is an event I particularly look forward to as we always want to do well on home turf. Fortunately we have done, winning it in 2008 and last year with Niko winning the points jersey, and David O'Loughlin the King of the Mountains."
"An Post is delighted to continue our support for the Seán Kelly team for 2010 and helping assist some of Ireland's best young riders fulfil their potential as elite athletes," said An Post CEO Donal Connell. "We broadened our support of Irish cycling last year to include the An Post Cycle Series, which is encouraging communities around the country to get back in the saddle."
The An Post sponsored team was set up by Sean Kelly five years ago as an extension of the Sean Kelly Academy to give young Irish cyclists a base from which to compete in Belgium, with the pro team designed to give young Irish riders access to a programme of top international races.
This is An Post's third year sponsoring the team; following on from a hugely successful two years which have included wins at the Rás in 2008 and team victories at the Tour of Extremadura, Tour de Pyrenees and Ronde de l'Oise. .
An Post got involved with cycling for the first time in 2007 as sponsors of the Green Jersey in the inaugural Tour of Ireland and extended their involvement in 2008 with the sponsorship of the Seán Kelly team. Last year, An Post moved into supporting cycling in the community, with the introduction of the An Post Cycle Series, in association with the Irish Sports Council.
The team is managed by Kurt Bogaerts and directed by Seán Kelly.
2010 An Post Sean Kelly Team
Paidi O'Brien (Ireland)
Mark Cassidy (Ireland)
Ronan McLaughlin (Ireland)
David O'Loughlin (Ireland)
Matt Brammeier (Ireland)
Connor McConvey (Northern Ireland)
Mark McNally (United Kingdom)
Benny De Schrooder (Belgium)
Kenny Lisabeth (Belgium)
Niko Eeckhout (Belgium)
Maxim Debusschere (Belgium)
Stijn Minne (Belgium)
Kim Borry (Belgium)
Gil Suray (Belgium)
Bjorn Brems (Belgium)
Pascal Hossay (Belgium)
Brice Sholten (Belgium)
Pieter Ghyllabert (Belgium)