The line-up for the 15-man An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly racing team 2017 includes four Irish riders: Damien Shaw, Matthew Teggart, Conor Hennebry and Sean McKenna.
Shaw and McKenna both debuted with the Belgium based team last year and have extended their contracts for another season. Hennebry and Teggart join on one-year deals, coming from Team Aquablue and French DN2 team, Amicale Cycliste Bisontine.
20-year-old Ulster man Teggart, who previously competed in the junior ranks for the Nicholas Roche Performance Team, hails from a rich cycling heritage. His grandfather competed in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, while his father and uncle both represented Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.
Fellow compatriot and new signing, Hennebry, joins the team with a string of top results to his name already. The 23-year-old claimed four victories racing in Belgium for Team Aquablue last year. This included a magnificent solo win at the Kermesse Sinaai, adding to his already impressive array of domestic results.
Having adapted to the team set up last season, McKenna and Shaw will both look to make a big impression in the year ahead. McKenna joined the squad in August, after completing his studies. Having dominated on the Irish scene, the 22-year-old will be looking to build on results, such as his 13th place finish in the youth classification in the Kreiz Breizh Elites.
Mullingar man Shaw, who left his career as a fireman to pursue his cycling ambitions gave several standout performances last season, showing why he is so highly regarded in the sport. A fifth place overall finish in An Post Rás, followed by an impressive debut at the star studded Tour of Britain are only fuelling his desire to achieve more in 2017;
He says: "When I took the opportunity last year to come on board with An Post, I wanted to grab it with both hands and have no regrets. I was happy with my first season as it does take time to bed in to the professional set up here, but now I am looking to really put down a marker this year. I have a year’s experience racing on the continent under my belt now so I’m raring to get going again and start the year strongly.”
Adding to the strong Irish contingent on the team is New Zealand star, Regan Gough. The 20 year-old, who joins from the Avanti Racing Team, made an outstanding start to the season already, winning the U23 National Time Trial Title. He also brings with him a significant CV of track cycling, winning gold in last year’s World Championships in the team pursuit.
Also joining on one-year deals are 22 year-old Polish cyclist, Premislav Kasperkiewicz, who previously raced for Czech team, Klein Constantia. Germany’s Jonas Bokeloh, a three-time German National Champion and a Junior World Champion, will bring valuable road racing experience. Track cyclist, Sean McKinnon, who secured a bronze medal for Canada at last year’s Pan American Games in the team pursuit brings added speed and attacking skills to the An Post squad.
A trio of British riders will also line out for An Post Chain Reaction this season. Mark Stewart, previously a member of British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme and a current Track Cycling World Cup champion, has signed alongside former Astellas Cycling Team rider, Dan Gardner. Jacob Scott has put pen to paper on a one-year extension after an impressive debut season, where he took fifth place in last year’s Etoile de Besseges.
Joining the squad in April is Canadian star, Adam Jamieson. Just off the back of a bronze medal in the team pursuit at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Jamieson will concentrate primarily on the track. This will be ahead of the World Championships in Hong Kong in April, before joining up with the team on a full time basis.
Dutch rider, Bas Tietema, has made the move from BMC development team, where he has been honing his skills for the past three years. The 21 year-old brings valuable classic experience to the squad, taking an impressive third place in the Roubaix Espoirs (U23) in Paris in his first year of the race in 2014. Tietema will be joined by fellow country man Davy Gunst, who has made the move from the Rabobank development team.
Lastly, adding to the plethora of young talent in this year’s squad is Massimo Vanderaerden. Verderaerden hails from a family rich in cycling heritage. His father, Eric, rode on the World Tour and was once a fierce rival of An Post Team Director, Sean Kelly throughout their professional careers. He moves across from the Lotto Soudal development team.
After a tough but progressive season in 2016, team manager Kurt Bogaerts believes the squad has the right mix of experience and raw talent to notch up some big results this season.
“At the end of last season, we looked at what we wanted to work on, and have brought riders from all over the world who we believe can help address certain weaknesses we identified. This year’s team is very different from the past, it’s a very young team with most of the riders under 23. I have been impressed with the level of the guys so I expect to have a good season and I am quite confident with the line-up that we have.”
Bogaerts also believes that the strong Irish contingent will have a big year for the team.
“I’m very excited about the four Irish riders. Conor and Matthew will take some time to adapt to the set up but they are showing already that they can contribute to the team and I expect them to do so. Matthew is one of the best young riders in Ireland and Conor has shown he has a great kick and ability to finish races. Sean and Damien are both in great shape and are highly motivated to show what they can really do this season so I am confident they will bring some great results.”
A new addition to the team’s management is Neil Martin, father of Irish rider Dan Martin. The former cyclist who rode in the 1980 and 1984 Olympic games has taken up the role as Directeur Sportif and will be sure to play a big role in the development of the riders.
The squad’s first trip back to Ireland will come in May for the 65th edition of An Post Rás. The team was set up by Sean Kelly ten 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. This is An Post’s tenth year sponsoring the team.
Their first race of the 2017 calendar will take place on the 29th of January in the 2017 Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise (1.1)
2017 An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly Team
Damien Shaw (IRE)
Conor Hennebry (IRE)
Sean McKenna (IRE)
Matthew Teggart (IRE)
Jacob Scott (GBR)
Dan Gardner (GBR)
Mark Stewart (GBR)
Bas Tietema (NED)
Davy Gunst (NED)
Regan Gough (NZL)
Massimo Vanderaeden (BEL)
Premislav Kasperkiewicz (POL)
Jonas Bokeloh (GER)
Sean MacKinnon (CAN)
Adam Jamieson (CAN)