Irish rider Sam Bennett’s superb form this season has been rewarded by securing a two-year contract with German pro-continental team Netapp-Endura.
Bennett has spent the past three years with the An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly team, at continental level.
The An Post team has moved quickly to replace the talented Bennett, securing a double signing in 19-year-old Irish rider Ryan Mullen from Team IG – Sigma Sport and British rider Owain Doull from The Great Britain National Team, both on one-year contracts.
Bennett notched up some exceptional results this campaign, including two stage wins on this year’s An Post Rás.
It was at last month’s Tour of Britain that he claimed the biggest win of his career, riding to victory on stage five.
The Carrick-An-Suir native was a constant thorn in the side of the big teams and narrowly missed out on a further two victories to Milan San Remo-winner Gerald Ciolek and British star Mark Cavendish respectively.
His form earned him a deserved place on the four-man Irish team for the Road World Championships in Florence.
Mullen and Doull
Mullen is coming off the back of an excellent season which saw him take bronze in the European U-23 Track Cycling Championships in Portugal and finish a fine seventh place in the U-23 individual time trial at the World Championships in Florence.
He continued this outstanding form only yesterday when he claimed a magnificent victory at the Chrono des Nations U-23 (1.2U) individual time trial in France.
British star Doull is another who joins the An Post set up following an impressive year.
The 20 -year-old notched up a string of fine results, most notably at this years An Post Rás where he finished second on stage six and claimed the points classification jersey, ahead of overall race winner Marcin Bialoblocki.
He also put in a fine performance on home soil at the Tour of Britain, finishing an impressive sixth place on stage four and in the best young rider classification.
Of the more recent signings to the team, Sean Downey built on his experience from last year, putting in impressive displays including the Tour of Britain where he challenged for the King of the Mountains jersey regularly, finishing fifth overall in that classification.
Twenty-year-old Jack Wilson’s debut season with the team proved a major success as he made an instant contribution, playing key roles in securing solid results such as Sam Bennett’s tenth place finish at Omloop van het Waasland (1.2), Belgium.
Ronan McLoughlin and Niko Eeckhout
Two riders who will not be remaining with the An Post team for the coming season are Donegal native Ronan McLaughlin and Belgian veteran rider Niko Eeckhout.
McLaughlin spent six seasons with the side and has been one of the most consistent riders over the years, playing a huge part in many of the team’s big results.
Meanwhile, Eeckhout retires following an incredible career spanning 21 years, of which he spent five with the An Post team.
Team manager Kurt Bogaerts expressed his delight at seeing Bennett make the move to a pro team, and at securing the signing of talented youngsters Mullen and Doull, while wishing McLaughlin and Eeckhout the very best.
He said: “It’s a bittersweet feeling with Sam. I am obviously delighted for him and he deserves this move because he is a very talented rider and he has worked extremely hard for this.
"At the same time he has been here for three years and I am sad to see him go.
"However, I think we have signed two of the best young talents around in Ryan Mullen and Owain Doull.
"I am really looking forward to working with them both and I think they will be great additions to our squad for next year.
"As a team and for myself, I will really miss the racing experience and personalities of Ronan and Nico, they both gave 100% and we wish them the very best for the future.”