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Searching for a new title sponsor since the Irish An Post company announced in May that it was leaving cycling, the Sean Kelly continental team – which competed in recent seasons as An Post Chainreaction – announced on Monday that it would not be part of the peloton in 2018.
The team owners Sean Kelly and Kurt Bogaerts had been chasing new sponsorship for several months but, with the UCI deadline for Continental team registration looming and current equipment sponsors needing to know if the team would continue or not, they have accepted that they have run out of time. Bogaerts said that the squad’s current riders also needed clarity about whether they should search elsewhere.
However the intention is to use the coming months to secure the backing to return at a higher level in the sport. “We continue to look towards 2019 and the goal of advancing to the Pro Continental level with enthusiasm,” said Kelly and Bogaerts in a statement.
The team has been one of the most successful Continental squads, winning stages in races such as the Tour of Britain, Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, the Étoile de Bessèges, the Tour d’Azerbaïdjan, taking victory in the Grote Prijs Stad Zottegem, the Memorial Rik Van Steenbergen, the Ronde de l’Oise, Schaal Sels and the An Post Rás, and also helping many riders to WorldTour and Pro Continental careers.
“It has been our pleasure to work with talented riders and to see them succeed and develop,” Kelly and Bogaerts continued. “We created an environment which nurtured honest hard work combined with determination. This facilitated the progression of Irish riders like Sam Bennett, Ryan Mullen, Conor Dunne and Matt Brammeier, each of whom made the transition to the top levels of our sport, along with riders from other nations such as Gediminas Bagdonas, Aaron Gate, Shane Archbold, and our most recent success story, Przemek Kasperkiewicz.”
Kelly and Bogaerts said that their aim is to secure a new sponsor by July of next year and to return as Pro Continental squad in 2019. If that is achieved, it would see Ireland with two such squads at this level. The Aqua Blue Sport squad made its debut in 2018 and impressed, taking a Vuelta a España stage win plus other important results.