Aqua Blue Sport cancels Tour of Britain participation, riders left in limbo

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Hopes that six Aqua Blue Sport riders could use good performances in the OVO Energy Tour of Britain to push for new contracts elsewhere has been dashed with the news that the team will not now ride the race.

The Irish Pro Continental team announced on Monday that it would not compete in 2019; however the demise of the team appears to more immediate than that.

Two sources told CyclingTips on Monday night that the riders had been told that the expected final showing in the Tour of Britain would not actually take place. Contacted for a response, the Tour of Britain organisers confirmed the decision.

“Following the news yesterday that the Aqua Blue Sport will not race in 2019 we were informed last night by team management that they would not be able to fulfil their commitment to the upcoming OVO Energy Tour of Britain,” said a spokesman in a statement.

“We are naturally disappointed at this late decision by the team and that British fans won’t have the chance to cheer on the likes of Adam Blythe and Mark Christian next week.

“However we understand the difficult situation that the team is in and respect their decision.”

The race begins next Sunday. CyclingTips understands that the organisers are considering the possibility of giving the slot to a replacement team.

The news that Aqua Blue Sport will not compete is a further blow to the team riders, who were blindsided yesterday to learn that the squad was folding. Several riders had been given contracts for 2019, with at least one other having a deal stretching into 2020.

Team management was bullish recently about the chances of a merger with the Vérandas Willems-Crelan team, but mishandling of those negotiations – specifically, the premature announcement of a concluded deal – made it more difficult to get things finalised.

“Aqua Blue Sport cycling team have been negotiating tirelessly with another Pro Continental team regarding an acquisition/partnership,” team management said in a statement on Monday. “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.”

Riders and team staff have now been left without employment for 2019. At such a late point in the year, it will be difficult for those affected to secure new deals.

Adam Blythe, Conor Dunne, Larry Warbasse, Mark Christian, Eddie Dunbar and Casper Pedersen were due to ride the Tour of Britain. CyclingTips understands that when yesterday’s shock news broke that the team would stop was communicated to riders, they understood that the Tour of Britain would go ahead.

That offered the six riders a platform to try to gain contracts for next season. However the riders were dealt a further blow later yesterday with an email saying that the squad would not now compete in Britain, and that the season was at an end.

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