At the launch last week of this years new An Post Sean Kelly racing team it was mentioned that the current manager had come to Sean Kelly as a teenager and asked if he could train with him . This is the expanded story of how that happened .
Kurt Bogaerts was a teenager when he plucked up the courage to aproach one of the top pro cyclists of all time Sean Kelly ,who happened to live near him in the Brussels suberb of Merchtem . He had heard that the pro teams sold off their bike at the end of each year and wanted to purchase a Festina team bike from the team .
One afternoon when he spotted Kelly’s car outside of the house he tentativly aproached the front door and rang the bell . Linda answered the door and went to get Sean when Kurt explained the reason for the visit . Sean agreed to try to get Kurt a team bike from the team at the end of that years season and told him to call back in a few weeks . Kurt was delighted and did call back again a number of weeks later . Kelly did not yet have a bike for him and asked Kurt to give him a shout in a few weeks again .
Kurt persisted and did call again a number of weeks later and this time Kelly did have a bike for him . As they were completing the transaction Kurt said in passing that if Sean ever wanted someone to train with that he would be delighted to train with him . Sean took his number but did not commit to anything .
However a number of months later Kurt was at home when his mother answered the phone and said that there was some foreigner on the phone for him . Who was it but the rider who was still the world number one Sean Kelly . Kurt could not believe it when Kelly asked if he wanted to go for a spin the following morning . Kurt of course agreed immediatly and they arranged to meet up the following morning .
Over the next twelve to eighteen months , the final season of Kellys’ career the two regularly trained together and a strong friendship was formed .One day whilst out on the bike Kurt asked the great champion who was now his friend why he trained with a young amateur like Kurt instead of Kelly’s fellow professionals . Kelly in a typically down to earth straightforward answer said ‘ you’ve a pair of balls , I’ve a pair of balls ‘ . This in a nutshell summed up what Kelly thought of fame and celebrity . In his own eyes he was still the same farmers son from Carrick who was no better or worse than anybody else .
When Kelly retired and moved back to Ireland it was Kurt’s father Michell ,who worked for Mercedes benz in Belgium who provided the van which would transport all of the Kelly posesions back to Ireland . Kurt and Sean kept in contact and Kurt was and still is a regular visitor to Carrick and would often train with the group .
Whenever anybody locally was going over to Belgium Kelly would always give people Kurt’s number and Kurt and his family would regularly collect people from the airport and put them up in their home .
So when the time came to set up the Sean Kelly Academy in Belgium Kurt was the obvious choice for some one to look after it . Then when it was announced that a third division team was to be formed Kurt was the obvious choice to look after the day to day running of things in Belgium . He is now all set to continue managing the new An Post Sean Kelly team for 2008 and is probably glad of the day he decided that he wanted to get an ex-professional team bike .