Aqua Blue Sport has named the lineup for their inaugural Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, with youth and experience set to make up their starting nine. The Irish team are in their first season and earned a wildcard spot into the Spanish Grand Tour. They have already said this week that their aim is to finish the race with at least a stage victory.
US national champion Larry Warbasse headlines the team as their most experienced Grand Tour rider. The 27-year-old has ridden the last three Vueltas a Espana as well as last year's Giro d'Italia. He took his first WorldTour win earlier this season at the Tour de Suisse and went on to beat Neilson Powless to take victory in the US national championships road race.
Former British champion Adam Blythe, Stefan Denifl and Michel Kreder are the three other riders with experience at three-week races. Denifl won the Tour of Austria earlier in the season and should be up there in the breakaways on the more mountainous stages. Blythe will be the team's man for the sprints and will be looking to get his first win on the board in the Vuelta's sparse sprint stages, while Kreder is better suited to the lumpy days.
Mark Christian, Conor Dunne, Aaron Gate, Peter Koning and Lasse Norman Hansen are all making their Grand Tour debut at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana. Gate and Hansen both come from a track background with Hansen the omnium Olympic champion from 2012. He stepped up to WorldTour level in 2014, but it will be his first opportunity to test himself at a Grand Tour. Dunne is the only Irish rider on the team's roster, while Christian joins Mark Cavendish and Peter Kennaugh on the list of Manx riders who have competed at a Grand Tour. Tour de San Luis stage winner Koning completes the line-up.
Aqua Blue Sport for the Vuelta a Espana: Adam Blythe, Mark Christian, Conor Dunne, Aaron Gate, Peter Koning, Michel Kreder, Lasse Norman Hansen, Larry Warbasse and Stefan Denifl