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Aqua Blue Sport riders and staff on hunt for contracts as team folds

Joe Robinson
28 Aug 2018

Team confirms decision to stop via Twitter page, riders only informed same morning

Fifteen ProContinental riders, including Adam Blythe and Conor Dunne, and a complete team of staff have been forced into a frantic search for new employment as Aqua Blue Sport announced that the team would not be applying for a UCI ProContinental licence for the 2019 season.

The Irish team confirmed yesterday in a frankly worded press release that due to finding it 'increasingly difficult to obtain race invitations and recognition from race organisers' the squad would no longer continue as a professional team. 

The team commented that they 'started the project over two years ago with huge ambition, gusto and optimism that we could actually make a difference'.

Although the team will not continue, the e-commerce platform, which the team was built from, will continue to run.

The statement also addressed the embarrassing hiccup that saw the team prematurely announce a merger with Belgian team Sniper Cycling, before tracking back after the latter team dispelled these rumours as false.

'Aqua Blue Sport cycling team, have been negotiating tirelessly with another ProContinental team regarding an acquisition/partnership,' the release read.

'Over the past weeks, we had formed the basis of an agreement many times, but unfortunately, common sense did not prevail. 

'We believed on numerous occasions that the deal was so far advanced that it was a foregone conclusion that a partnership would be achieved.

'Today, August 27, 2018, we now find ourselves in a position where we can categorically state that all negotiations have been terminated.'

This sudden announcement from Aqua Blue Sport came as a surprise to all, including the team's riders who were only informed yesterday morning. 

This will see the likes of Blythe, Dunne and former US National Champion Larry Warbasse looking for contracts elsewhere despite most teams having already completed their raft of new signatures for 2019.

Some of the team's riders have taken to social media in the search for new teams including Dunne and Stefan Denifl, winner of Aqua Blue Sport's only Grand Tour stage victory at last year's Vuelta a Espana.

Irish road race champion Dunne was able to see the funny side of the serious situation, tweeting 'Green Giant for sale' but it can only be expected that many of the team's riders and staff will be close to panic stations with this announcement. 

This sudden nature of the announcement, and the way in which some riders found out, unfortunately, comes as no surprise to a team whose management has been increasingly vocal concerning many issues throughout the year.

Team owner and manager Rick Delaney has routinely taken to social media in order to criticise a whole host of issues from the lack of invitations to major races, including the Grand Tours and Tour of California, and the mechanical complications around the team's 3T Strada 1x bike.

The Irishman took particular offence at being left out of the ongoing Vuelta despite a stage victory the year before. He took particular exception at the race deciding to invite home-based teams BH-Burgos and Euskal-Murias.

Delaney then also commented that mechanical issues from the 3T Strada has cost the team results, comparing the team's role with the bikes to 'lab rats'.

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