For the seventh year running Irish cycling will benefit from the sponsorship of An Post with the UCI Continental squad retaining a core of young riders such as Marcus Christie, Ryan Mullen and Conor Dunne while Jack Wilson and Sean Downey have been retained for the year ahead.
The An Post Chain Reaction team had their best ever season on the UCI European Tour last year in thanks to Sam Bennett who is riding for the Pro-Continental NetApp-Endura team in 2014 but have replaced the Waterford man with six new faces.
Several of the team’s rider have excelled on the track with Glen O'Shea having just won the team pursuit world title with Australia in Cali, Colombia at the Track World Championships. O’Shea is one of two Australian on the team with Robert-Jon McCarthy the other. McCarthy already has one win to his name which came at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour in the town of another fast bolter, the horse Black Caviar, in the Victorian town of Nagambie.
The Irish National U23 Time Trial Champion, Ryan Mullen is another rider who also spends time in the velodrome and he narrowly missed out on a bronze medal in the individual pursuit at his debut track world championships.
New Zealand's Aaron Gate, who claimed a bronze medal in the Men's Team Pursuit in Cali, is the 2013 omnium world champion and for his second season at the team will be joined by countryman Shane Archbold.
Having impressed in his debut season last year, 20-year-old Jack Wilson will be hoping to replicate his form from last year.
"I was really happy with how my first year with the team went. Although the primary aim of last season was to adapt, learn and gain some valuable experience, I felt I made an important contribution to the team and I surprised myself in some of my performances," Wilson said.
"This year will be about building on that, with a view to getting some good results under my belt as that's what it ultimately comes down to."
Team manager Kurt Bogaerts is eager to carry the momentum of last year into 2014 and is hoping that another rider can follow in the footsteps of Sam Bennett and step into the pro ranks.
"We probably had our most successful ever season last year. We achieved really strong results at the big races such as the Tour of Britain and the An Post Rás. However, that season is over now and we need to carry that good form in to this campaign," Bogaerts said.
We have lost some experienced riders in Sam, Ronan and Niko but we have brought on board some really exciting talent in the shape of Ryan, Conor and Marcus. We also have Niko now as a full-time coach and he is making a real difference to the riders, so I think the overall balance to the team is good and I am very excited about what the season will bring."
The first race on home soil for the team will be in May at the 62nd edition of the An Post Rás.
"The Rás is a major target for us every year. It's a fantastic race and one in which the riders love being a part of. There's no race like it around so for any rider to be involved is a great experience." said team director Sean Kelly.
The An Post sponsored team was set up by Sean Kelly eight 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.
2014 An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly Team: Jack Wilson (Irl), Conor Dunne (Irl), Ryan Mullen (Irl), Marcus Christie (Irl), Sean Downey (Irl), Mark McNally (Uk), Kieran Frend (Uk), Owain Doull (Uk), Kevin Claeys (Bel), Laurent Vanden Bak (Bel), Wout Franssen (Bel), Bobbie Traksel (Ned), Robert-Jon McCarthy (Aus), Glenn O'Shea (Aus), Aaron Gate (NZl) and Shane Archbold (NZl)
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