The fallout from Aqua Blue Sport's demise continues with news that the Irish Pro Continental squad will not compete in next month's Tour of Britain. The news comes just 24 hours after the team announced that they would end their sponsorship commitments at the end of this season.
On Monday, the team's management had informed riders and staff that the Tour of Britain would be their final race. Rick Delaney, owner of Aqua Blue, informed the riders via email that the team would cease operations at the of this season but that "the Tour of Britain would be our final race as Aqua Blue."
However, by Tuesday lunchtime, the organisation of the Tour of Britain confirmed that the team would not be able to meet their commitment to take part in the eight-day race. Cyclingnews has learnt that the Aqua Blue riders were informed late on Monday night that their race programmes have been terminated with immediate effect and that the squad will not race again.
Cyclingnews has obtained that email and has also learnt that in the team's Whatsapp group – which includes riders, staff and management – a rider asked legitimate questions about the team's future after finding out that Aqua Blue were folding via a press release. In the Whatsapp group, a teammate quickly responded with ''team's ended mate." Delaney then promptly left the group. Delaney has not responded to messages from Cyclingnews.
In an email sent last night, this time from Aqua Blue CEO Tim Timmerman, riders and staff were informed that the Tour of Britain would no longer be part of the team's schedule and that all riders were free to seek alternative plans and teams. It is unclear whether the riders will be paid for the remaining months on the team.
"We have all been working today, looking at current agreements, contracts and race program," the email read.
"As we set priority to salaries and wages, and place this ahead of any other possible future expense, we have had to prioritise some of the cost coming along. Regrettably that means, rather than what was mentioned earlier, we will now with immediate effect stop the race program. We find it important to inform you first, but will of course inform race organisers and third parties as we can.
"As the question had arisen earlier, we don't not want to limit our riders of participating in races. Riders are free to participate in races. Riders are free to participate, at their own expense, in races as they see fit. Thank you for your understanding, and you can expect further updates in the coming days.
"This is without any doubt a hurricane passing by, and we can feel frustrated or angry. However, let's also look back on a great journey and project, with good exposure, fun and a fantastic project."
The Tour of Britain made their announcement at midday on Tuesday.
"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.
"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. We would like to take this opportunity to wish all of the riders and staff of the Aqua Blue Sport team all the best for the future. We will make no further comment at this time."
It is unclear what the future holds for the riders on the team. Delaney told Cyclingnews earlier this month that several riders had contracts with the team for 2019 and that he was looking to expand his roster with several more riders joining the team. The breakdown in negotiations, between Aqua Blue and Sniper Cycling – the company behind Veranda's Willems-Crelan – appears to have been the nail in the coffin for the Irish team but many more questions remain unanswered.