Former Welwyn Wheelers star Joe Kiely signs for top French cycling team

Joe Kiely and Euan Woodliffe in action for Welwyn Wheelers

Former Welwyn Wheeler Joe Kiely has signed for the U19 team at AG2R Citroen. - Credit: WELWYN WHEELERS

A former junior at Welwyn Wheelers has landed an "incredible" chance to ride for one of the top teams in France.

Joe Kiely rode for the Gosling Stadium-based cycling club for many years and picked up plenty of big results.

He has also ridden for Great Britain at the 2020 junior world cyclo-cross championships and now will spend a year as part of the U19 team at AG2R Citroen, living in the north-east of France, close to the Belgium border.

Speaking at the time of his signing, the 17-year-old Kiely said: "I discovered the team during an internship and when someone told me about the possibility of spending a year in France with a host family, I immediately said yes. 

"Since September I have been living in Charleville Mezieres with the Gabriel family. It means I can learn French and also ride high-level cyclo-cross as well as the road. 

"I have an incredible experience and a chance to be in the junior team of AG2R Citroen."

The senior team is one of the World Tour teams in the professional ranks, riding all the major races including the Tour de France.

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It was once led by the darling of the French fans, Romain Bardet, but is now headed by Greg van Avermaet, the Olympic champion from Rio 2016 among many other major victories.

Kiely's last major race of 2020 was the La Philippe Gilbert Juniors, a two-stage event in Belgium, and it saw him battle some familiar faces with Welwyn team-mates Oli Stockwell and Louis Sutton involved.

He placed 34th and 23rd on the two stages, finishing 23rd in the general classification.

Stockwell was eighth overall while Sutton placed 25th.

Their old Welwyn club has, like many grassroots sports teams, had a difficult time throughout 2020. There was no cyclo-cross allowed and the rearranged Welwyn Petit Tour is "looking unlikely" due to the amount of sponsorship needed.

But with membership up thanks to the boom in cycling, they are still hopeful of better times ahead in the new year.

Speaking on the club website prior to the latest lockdown they said: "We are hopeful some races will take place, like the Hilly 50 Open TT on Good Friday and the Welwyn round of the National Youth Omnium Series in May.

"Both are already in planning as is another Club 10 TT series between May and August."