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Current Team Sky rider and 2015 Tour de Yorkshire winner Lars Petter Nordhaug has been confirmed as moving to the new Irish Pro Continental outfit Aqua Blue Sport, with the Norwegian one of several signings confirmed on Monday.
The 32 year old, who is also a past winner of the WorldTour GP de Montreal, has been announced as the leader of the squad. It will be the first-ever Irish Pro Continental team and, unsurprisingly, will have a strong Irish presence.
Also announced on Monday was multiple national champion Matt Brammeier, former world scratch race champion Martyn Irvine and Rutland–Melton International CiCLE Classic winner Conor Dunne.
“Since the first time I have spoken with the team I have been really impressed with the way they think, with their approach to managing the team and with the entire philosophy behind it,” said Nordhaug, who has ridden with Sky and Team Belkin in the past.
“At this stage in my career I really believe that this philosophy will help me to be the best rider I can be and to focus on delivering the performances that I know are in me. That’s why I chose to join Team Aqua Blue Sport.”
Irvine retired from the sport earlier this year but then confirmed in May that he was considering a comeback. He has decided to focus on road rather than track and sees the team as the ideal vehicle for that.
“It took a really special offer to coax me out of retirement but the opportunity to compete at this level with an Irish backed team is something I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “Very few Irish athletes get the experience to ride at this level so I feel very lucky to be getting this opportunity and not just about competing but being part of what Rick is trying to achieve.”
Irvine was referring to team founder Rick Delaney, a Monaco-based Irish businessman. Delaney has backed the Irish amateur Aqua Blue team for several years but wants to step up the company’s presence in cycling plus its commitment.
“I fell in love with cycling decades ago so this is a personal passion of mine,” he said. “By removing the financial insecurity so often associated with cycling teams, my hope is to create a team environment that will see athletes thrive, and in turn positively impact on performances.”
One way of removing financial insecurity is offering rolling two year contracts. According to the team, the goal is to create a rewarding culture ‘with athlete welfare firmly at its heart.’
Delaney has also guaranteed team backing for four years.
He and others have worked for many months to build things up. The project bought the IAM Cycling bus and truck. It has also brought past rider Nicki Sørensen on board as directeur sportif, as well as signed up Leigh Bryan, a Monaco-based Australian who has worked with Matthew Goss, Simon Gerrans, Dave Tanner, Mark Renshaw, Theo Bos, Richie Porte, Calvin Watson and others.
Bryan will work as director of performance operations, while Alan Farrell will take up the team medic role after previously working as Team Sky doctor.
Former Irish international riders Stephen Barrett and Tim Barry will act as director of athletic performance and directeur sportif respectively.
Brammeier moves across after two years with MTN Qhubeka/Team Dimension Data and explained what attracted him to the squad.
“The first time I spoke to Leigh [Bryan] it felt like the perfect team for me. It struck me as something completely new for cycling but exactly what cycling needs. Also, what’s hugely important for me is the idea of rider enjoyment and happiness being central to the ethos of the team. That’s my number one priority.”
The team has indicated it will target rides in events such as Milan-San Remo, Amstel Gold and the Tour of Britain in 2017. It has said reaching WorldTour status in year four is a major goal.