Irish riders Ryan Mullen, Sean Downey and Jack Wilson will line out as part of an eight-man An Post Chain Reaction Sean Kelly team for tomorrow’s Driedaagse van West-Vlaandren (2.1) in Belgium.
Despite a very strong start list, including Mark Cavendish’s Omega Pharma Quick-Step, An Post’s team go in to this weekend’s stage race brimming with confidence following some fine individual performances, most notably at Etoile de Besseges in France.
Ryan Mullen makes his first appearance for the team since his impressive Track World Championship debut in Columbia last week, where he narrowly missed out on a bronze medal in the individual pursuit. The 19-year-old time trial specialist will be hoping he can transfer his track form on to the road, with a seven kilometre prologue first up for the riders tomorrow.
Saturday and Sunday will see the riders face two demanding stages with the final day’s route particularly challenging, as the peloton must overcome some typical tough Flemish climbs before the finish line.
Liverpool’s Mark McNally and Aussie rider Robert-Jon McCarthy join the Belgium trio of Laurent Vanden Bak, Wout Franssen and Kevin Claeys in making up the remainder of the team.
"As always it’s important we are in the breakaways and Sean and Jack will play a big part in ensuring that for us" - Kurt Bogaerts
Team manager Kurt Bogaerts is happy with the balance to his side and believes they have the ability to threaten any of the top teams.
Bogaerts said: “We have a good variety of skills in each of the riders. With the prologue first up, we hope Ryan can get a good time on this as he will be used to the distance and is also coming in with great confidence from the World Championships.
“However, it’s a change of bike for him from the track so we’ll see how he takes to the new equipment.
“On the stage races, if the weather is good they will most likely finish in bunch sprints so if that’s the case then we have Robert-Jon, Wout and Kevin who are all very strong in that department.
“As always it’s important we are in the breakaways and Sean and Jack will play a big part in ensuring that for us.”