Two Irish riders have been added to the line-up for one of the top French DN1 teams for the 2018 season. Ryan Reilly and Darragh O’Mahony will race for C.C. Nogent-sur-Oise next season and the move to the Northern French team has been secured through work done by Gary McQuaid, Aidan Duff and former An Post Chain Reaction rider and Irish International Ronan McLaughlin.
Also instrumental in the move was Jean Auguste Vantalon. The Breton, who runs the Be Celt website, has been a long-time supported of Irish cycling.
21 year-old Reilly has spent the past number of seasons racing with AC Bisontine and took a fine 10th place in the Irish National Road Race Championships. He also nabbed a number of top ten placings in French races including 3rd at Prix Jura Nord and 9th at Jura Nord-Fraisans.
O’Mahony took a number of big domestic wins including the Des Hanlon and De Ronde Classic. He was also selected for the Irish U23 team for a number of big races including the U-23 Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Flanders, European and World Road Race Championships.
McLaughlin is hopeful that this move is just the start of a programme which will see Irish riders getting the opportunity to race for some of the top French teams.
“Gary, Jean, Aidan and I helped to secure these places for the two lads,” explains McLaughlin. “It’s part of a programme I am trying to build to get Irish juniors and U23 into top French teams.”
“The two boys are the first two riders to go to France and the idea is that more will follow, firstly in June to spend the summer there. The plan is that some will join French teams for a full season, others doing exams will have a place to go in the summer.”
It has been a difficult time for young Irish riders with the recent news that the An Post team were unable to secure sponsorship as this had been an option for emerging Irish riders in recent years.
“It’s such a shame that the Kelly team was lost, that was a real target for a lot of Irish riders,” says McLaughlin who spent six years with the team.
The Donegal man also recognises the French club route as having been an incredibly successful route for Irish cyclists to get to the top level of the sport. Current WorldTour riders Philip Deignan, Sam Bennett, Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin all cut their teeth with VC La Pomme Marseille.
Former Junior World Champion also raced for VC La Pomme with Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Martin Earley and Paul Kimmage all having raced for French clubs also.
“Although this is a different pathway, I do believe there is great potential for the development of Irish riders in France. Just look at our current WorldTour riders, Philip Deignan, Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin all spent their whole amateur careers in France with a DN1 team and have gone on to be some of the best riders the country has ever had.
“Although the Kelly team was instrumental in Sam Bennett’s career, he did also spend a year or two in France. It’s not an easy pathway for Irish riders but a rider with a good talent and great dedication can make his way into the WorldTour by learning the trade in a French DN1 or DN2 team.
“I coach Darragh O’Mahony and he has made great progress over the past year. Gary McQuaid was instrumental in getting in contact with CC Nogent in the past few months. Gary secured Darragh a spot on the team and I then set about trying to get a spot secured for Ryan. Both the lads have a natural talent but equally both realise that talent alone is not enough. It’s the hard work and dedication that enables a talent to flourish.
“I am a firm believer that both the lads being on the one team in France is a huge added bonus. They can prosper together in a way that would be, not impossible, but certainly more difficult for an Irish rider on his own in a foreign team.
The team that the pair are moving to compete in the top French amateur races and also line up in a large number of Belgian races.
Amongst the riders who have raced for C.C. Nogent-sur-Oise in recent years who have progressed to bigger teams are Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale), Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Adrien Petit (Direct Energie), Brice Feillu (Fortuneo-Oscaro), Stéphane Rossetto, Jimmy and Anthony Turgis (Cofidis, Solutions Credits) and Marc Fournier who spent two years with FDJ.
It’s an opportunity that Reilly, who also received support from Dany Blondeel and The Belgian Project over the years, is looking forward to.
“This is a super opportunity for me and Darragh,” he explained. “For me, it’s a move from Division 2 to Division 1, bringing another step closer to the dream that is becoming a WorldTour rider.”
“I’m extremely thankful to AC Bisontine for supporting me and a number of other Irish riders in the last few years. Ronan McLaughlin and his role in Cycling Ireland played a large part of securing this team for me, it’s great to have our CI looking after young riders that are trying to make it on the continent. I’m looking forward to a year of hard racing and hopefully some good results.”