Earlier this month the An Post company announced that it would cease its sponsorship of the An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly team plus two Irish international races it backs, the An Post Rás and the An Post Rás na mBan.
The news was a blow to all three, but An Post Chainreaction Sean Kelly team manager Kurt Bogaerts says he is confident the team will continue and could actually be bigger than ever in 2018.
“We are in talks with different options,” he told CyclingTips at the An Post Rás. “The decision is not a big surprise. It was coming. I am just very grateful with the support we got from An Post.”
An Post is the Irish national postal company and it has backed the team since 2008. However it has been under financial pressure and has been forced to conclude its sponsorships, thus leading to the decision.
Bogaerts believes the team has a lot to offer and that this will prove crucial in securing a new backer or backers. “At the moment we have a great setup that normally should attract the sponsors. We are very organised. We get good results. And then we always have a good relationship with the sponsors in the past, so that will help us to secure a new sponsor for next year.
“We are working on it. I am very confident that it will work out and that the team will continue.”
Indeed, Bogaerts believes that the change in fortune will not necessarily affect an ambitious long-term plan of his. He has said more than once that he and Sean Kelly would like to have not one but two teams: the first would be a continuation of the current Continental team, and the second would be the addition of a bigger Pro Continental setup.
“This decision is basically putting that plan to the front,” he said, confirming that they will do everything they can to have two squads in 2018.
“Our proposal to the future sponsor is basically both teams. We will propose that to the new sponsors who have interest in the team. That is now the main objective. Sometimes when a door closes, a new one opens. So that is the opportunity I will take.”
Kelly has a big reputation in cycling, both as former world number one and a very successful rider, and also as a Eurosport commentator. His work with the team has also earned respect.
The team, too, has built up a good reputation, winning races such as the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, the Ronde de l’Oise and others, and taking stages in events such as Tour of Britain. It has helped a number of riders to WorldTour contracts, including Sam Bennett, Matt Brammeier and Ryan Mullen, and solidifying its reputation as a good developer of talent.
Kelly and Bogaerts will meet potential sponsors together and try to secure the backing they need. So, what timescale does Bogaerts believe is involved?
“I think we are a few months away. I say that we want to finalise the team for next season by the end of July,” he says. “That’s the first objective. Serious talks will happen after the Rás.
“It is never good when a good sponsor like An Post pulls out of cycling. But it is due to [financial] circumstances. We need to be aware of that. It is nothing to do with cycling.
“Of course we are going to take this change as an opportunity.”