Kelly looking at backers for possible move to second tier
Sean Kelly is eyeing a move up to ProContinental level for his An Post-Chain Reaction team for next year.
Questions about the step up to the second tier of professional cycling have been an annual event, and Kelly has been cagey about the prospect in recent years, but the former World No 1 says talks are ongoing with sponsors from Ireland and Europe that would help fund expansion plans.
"We've been so lucky with An Post. They've been with us a long time and the relationship has been really good and then we have Chain Reaction the last couple of years, so our two main sponsors have been very loyal to us," said Kelly at his team's launch in Calpe, Spain yesterday.
"But we are looking at sponsors, who we have already been in contact with and we will see in the next four or five months how things go.
"Possibly making the step up, also to see what the plan is with our current sponsors and if it's not to be a step up then it's to keep going at a continental level."
He feels the team are in a strong position to attract new investment.
"People who've been sponsoring in cycling before, who are having a look again, they see the team is there for 10 years, they know that the team is a serious structure - because you're not there for 10 years unless you've got that. So yeah they look at that, and yeah we have had approaches from people in that category.
"Some have been involved in cycling (before) and some other ones we've been going after. We've already been looking at it for the past number of months, past year really and we'll just keep working with them. There are things out there."
Kelly believes the quality of the riders in his team continues to improve year on year, with the squad's growing reputation for developing professionals like Sam Bennett and Ryan Mullen making it easier to attract talented prospects.
"We've had that success where 10-plus riders have moved on to the next level, but the unfortunate thing is we haven't moved on enough Irish riders. The idea starting out was that we would be able to move on a couple of Irish riders... Bennett of course is the one that comes to note, he's the big one, and Mullen after that. But you look at a lot of riders who've moved on and they're non-Irish," he said.
The four Irishmen hoping to increase that number include Mullingar man Damien Shaw, the 32-year-old former fireman who rode with An Post last year. Sean McKenna starts his first full season with the team.
The Templeogue 22-year-old rode for Kelly's outfit for the second half of 2016 after finishing his degree in UCD.
Joining the team this year are Banbridge's Matthew Teggart (21), who spent two years racing with an amateur French team, and Conor Hennebry (23) a former hurler with Waterford underage teams.
An Post-Chain Reaction team for 2017:
Matthew Teggart (Ire), Sean McKenna (Ire), Jacob Scott (GB), Massimo Vanderaerden (Bel),
Davy Gunst (Ned), Conor Hennebry (Ire), Jonas Bokeloh (Ger), Mark Stewart (GB), Bas Tietema (Ned), Adam Jamieson (Can), Damien Shaw (Ire), Regan Gough (NZ), Premislav Kasperkiewicz (Pol),
Sean MacKinnon (Can), Dan Gardner (GB)