The Belgium based An Post sponsored Seán Kelly team is back on Irish soil to compete in the three-day 2009 Tour of Ireland. The seven man team has been confirmed by manager Kurt Bogaerts and includes three Irish riders – Paidi O’Brien, Mark Cassidy and Ronan McLaughlin. This is the team’s first race on home soil since May’s FBD Insurance Rás and Bogaerts admits that his team has it all to do to deliver success against the most competitive field the Tour of Ireland has ever seen.
Paidi O’Brien’s inclusion was confirmed today, following the Cork man’s race against time to be fit after O’Brien picked up a hand injury in training the day after his third place finish at the National Championships in May.
“It’s definitely going to be a very tough race for us,” said O’Brien. “There is a strong field every year at the Tour, but this year is exceptional with Cavendish, who was awesome last year and recently at the Tour De France and Armstrong as well of course. I did everything I could to recover in time and I am just delighted to be included in the team. I’ll just give everything and we’ll see what happens.”
Ronan McLaughlin, the youngest member of the team at 21, will use the Tour to gain further experience and is eagerly anticipating racing against Armstrong. The talented youngster was runner up in the U-23 category at the Irish Road Race Championships recently.
“I would be the most inexperienced on the team,” said McLaughlin: “So right up until the last minute I was not sure of my place. The experience should do me the world of good and to compete against Lance is going to be amazing. The hype surrounding him coming over is something else. Hopefully all the build up won’t affect me and I just want to concentrate on my own race and put in a performance that will demonstrate to the manager that I’m capable of performing at this level.”
The seven man team also includes four Belgian riders, Niko Eeckhout, Jef Peeters, Benny De Schrooder and Steven Van Vooren, with the experienced Eeckhout, who has had a number of wins in Europe this year already, looking like the strongest contender for victory from the An Post team.
Team Manager, Kurt Bogaerts, is happy with his selection: “We need to be realistic with a world class field that includes riders like Cavendish and it will be very difficult to win. We will try to take the Points and the Mountains jerseys and hopefully be on the podium. I’ve selected an aggressive team and we will go for the breaks. We need to show that we can handle the pressure this year and competing in Ireland is always very important for us with our sponsors.”
The An Post sponsored Seán Kelly Team for the 2009 Tour of Ireland is:
Paidi O’Brien (IRL) Benny De Schrooder (BEL)
Mark Cassidy (IRL) Steven Van Vooren (BEL)
Ronan McLaughlin (IRL) Jef Peeters (BEL)
Niko Eeckhout (BEL)
Press Release Courtesy An Post-M Donnelly-Sean Kelly Team
Photo- L to R - Mark Cassidy, Paid O'Brien, Ronan McLaughlin