Sean Kelly Academy closing

Where the team came from and where it will be based: The Sean Kelly Cycling Academy in Merchtem, Belgium

Where the team came from and where it will be based: The Sean Kelly Cycling Academy in Merchtem, Belgium (Image credit: Shane Stokes/

Cycling Ireland has decided to close the Sean Kelly Academy House in Merchtem, Belgium, due to the ongoing costs and also the fact that the house has not been used to full capacity.

The Academy was launched in April 2005 and was intended to house Irish riders of all levels who wished to spend time racing in Belgium. These included some riders with the An Post M. Donnelly Grant Thornton Sean Kelly team, who were based out of the facility in recent seasons. Riders from others teams have also stayed there on occasion.

However, Cycling Ireland’s High Performance Unit has now taken the decision not to continue renting the facility in 2010.

“The High Performance Unit has evaluated the resource and following extensive consultation with Sean Kelly, staff, officials and riders, has taken the decision to review the High Performance (HP) funding that was directed towards this facility,” said Cycling Ireland in a press release.

“The emphasis on the Academy has shifted a little in recent years due to the emergence of the Sean Kelly An Post UCI Continental Team. Additionally, the house needed considerable upgrading to be of HP [High Performance] standard, and usage in 2009 has been relatively low.”

Cycling Ireland’s High Performance Director Phil Leigh said that he is investigating alternative options. “The Academy has played an important part in Cycling Ireland’s overseas development over recent years,” he said. “But the time has come to look at a new model going forward, especially now that we have High Performance Irish riders based in Belgium in the Sean Kelly An Post Team. There are also other initiatives such as Dany Blondeel’s Belgium Project for development riders.”

The latter helps young riders from Ulster compete in Belgium.

A difficult climate in the Irish economy has led to many cutbacks from government departments, and there are concerns that further reductions will be made to sporting grants for 2010.

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