By Shane Stokes
The Sean Kelly - ACLVB M. Donnelly Racing Team are heading into the final two months of the season with strong morale following Paídi O’Brien’s seventh place in the 1.1 ranked Druivenkoers in Overijse, Belgium on Wednesday. Team directeur sportif Kurt Bogaerts is very pleased with O’Brien’s placing. "It is the best result for us to date, for sure," he said on Thursday. "Paídi was sprinting for the win so that was also a first for us.
"Four guys were clear heading towards the finish, but then everything came together with five kilometres to go. Danilo Hondo’s team were driving it, trying to set him up for the win, but he made a mistake and wasn’t placed in the sprint. Paídi did a very good race and overall it was the best of the year for the team. Everyone was going well and rode hard for him."
The Sean Kelly - ACLBV M. Donnelly team is in the first year of its existence as a Continental squad and while it has achieved some solid results, there have also been times when the riders have found it difficult to adjust to riding against the big name professionals. Bogaerts thinks that Wednesday’s race shows that the hard work is finally paying off. "This is a really big result if you compare to what other guys from Ireland have done in the past. The fact that Paídi is so young is a further plus. We have been doing these races all year and while we found them tough early on, there is good progression here. It shows that all the hard work is starting to pay off for us.
"It was definitely necessary that something like that this happened. We didn’t quite feel that we were under a lot of pressure, but we wanted to do something for our sponsors, to show what we could do. We hope to keep building from this point. We have loads of plans for next year. The team will go ahead, hopefully with a slightly bigger budget. That would help us do a little more for the riders and also to build up the setup. We will also learn from this year - we have gained a lot of experience. We probably made a few mistakes early on but we have learned from that and hope that things will keep progressing from this point onwards."
Bogaerts concluded by saying that he was optimistic of a good showing in the Under 23 world championships. "This kind of experience is very good for the worlds team. Paídi is going well, other guys from the Sean Kelly team are building form and we also have the likes of Daniel Martin, who is going very well with VC La Pomme. I think we will have a very competitive squad there."
The young riders on the Sean Kelly team will have a decent programme in the run-up to the championships. On September 3, the riders will do the 1.1 ranked Grote Prijs Jef Scherens in Leuven, then the Tryptique des Barrages (2.2, September 9-10) in Belgium and the Tour de La Somme (2.2, September 15-16) in France.