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Kelly to tap Bennett potential as classics rider

Posted 14 February 2012


Sean Kelly has expressed his confidence that Sam Bennett can deliver a big result for the An Post Sean Kelly team when it gets its spring semi-classics campaign underway later this month.

Kelly believes that the 21 year old is ready to step up a level this year and he sees no reason why the reigning under 23 national road race champion should not follow in the footsteps of the former An Post Sean Kelly team riders who have secured contracts with Pro Tour teams.

Kelly made no bones about his objectives for the year when he spoke to Irish Pro Cycling this week and he has identified Bennett as one of the key riders in his plans for a successful season.

“What would make a good season for the team – results. When I am talking about results I want to win some races. We will win races, but what type of races is the question,” Kelly remarked.

“I am talking about the big races against the big teams. Getting up there in the semi-classics. Sam Bennett is the type of rider who is capable of doing something in those races,” he added.

The An Post Sean Kelly team will take on an extended progamme of one-day semi-classics races this season with no less than twenty-four races rostered between now and the end of April.

The schedule starts with the Beverbeek Classic and includes Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Le Samyn, De Vlaamse Pijl – Stannah, Omloop van het Waasland, Nokere-Koerse, Dwars door Vlaanderen, Paris-Camembert, De Brabantse Pijl – La Fleche Brabanconne and Zellik – Galmaarden.

“Sam has been with us for a year and I feel he should be moving up and getting into the final of those races. If he does that earlier in the season hopefully he can win some races later in the season,” said Kelly.

Bennett has yet to kick off his season but the Carrick-on-Suir rider underlined what he is capable of achieving last year when he added the GP Stad Geel to his palmares before riding strongly at the U.23 World Road Race Championships in Copenhagen.

“The second half of the season he did some performances after coming back from almost a year out of action. He crashed two years ago in January out training in Ireland and broke his collarbone and then he had knee problems throughout the year,” Kelly recalled.

“He was only back on the bike when he had to stop and he missed most of that year in 2010. Last year, the first half of the year was difficult for him because he was coming from a long way off and coming into a team like ours the level of racing was higher.

“He adapted very well and in the second half of the year he did some good performances. In the World Championships he was riding well until he got tangled up in a crash in the last kilometres,” said the team director.

Kelly believes that the 2011 season has given Bennett a solid foundation upon which to build and that his young protégée can make an impression in one-day and five-day races if he shifts his focus from his natural ability as a sprinter to improving as an all round rider. 

“This year he can take things from the start of the new season. We will see how he is going and if he is going well in March and April we will be pushing to get some results,” said Kelly.

“He is good in sprints but he is very much focused on his sprinting. He has the potential to be a better all-rounder but he has to change his mentality on sprinting.

“He is very capable of getting up medium hills, not climbs like you see in the Vuelta, the Giro or the Tour which are totally different, but the medium hills like you see in one day races.

“Looking forward, races like Paris-Nice and the one-day classics are where he is capable of doing something in the next couple of years. In the years to come they are type of races in which he can get results,” Kelly predicted.

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