Muff cyclist Ronan McLaughlin has been named in the line-up for the An Post sponsored Sean Kelly Cycling team for the upcoming season.
McLaughlin is one of five Irish men on the 18-man team alongside Mark Cassidy and Sam Bennett, as well as a permanent return to the side for Connor McConvey, who re-joined the setup at the end of last season. Talented young Irish rider Sean Downey has also penned a one-year deal with the team.
“We’ve signed some really talented riders and the team morale is very high after the winter training camps in Calpe,” McLaughlin said. “I’m in good shape and looking forward to the season ahead. I’m in the team for the Tour of Algarve this week, racing against some of the world’s best riders so it’s exciting times.”
An Post’s 2011 Rás victor and Tour of Britain stage winner Gediminas Bagdonas has been retained by the team after a proposed move to the Pro Tour fell through, while Liverpudlian Mark McNally has also inked a new one year deal following the collapse of his move to Europcar.
Three new UK riders have been added to the setup; Jonathan Bellis, Mark Christian and Jonathan Mould. Bellis joins from Saxo Bank on the Pro Tour, following a return to the sport after a serious accident in 2009. Mould and Christian are riders with notable track backgrounds and they both participated in the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi. 20-year old Australian rider Scott Law, a previous stage winner of the Tour of Geelong, has also been added to the squad.
Veteran strongman Niko Eeckhout and Pieter Ghyllebert have both been re-signed. They are joined by five new Belgian signees; Kenneth Van Bilsen, Niels Wytinck, Roy Jans, Joren Segers and Stijn Ennekens.
The An Post squad first trip back to Ireland will come in May as they look to defend Bagdonas’ Rás win. The An Post sponsored team was set up by Sean Kelly seven 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 fifth year sponsoring the team.