The newly created Irish Pro-Continental teams Aqua Blue Sport will start its first season in the professional peloton at the one-day Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Geelong, Australia. The team will first race the Australia Day criterium race on January 26 before lining up for the WorldTour race on January 29
Australian Leigh Howard was second at the 2016 edition of the race on his hometown of Geelong is aiming to start the new year with his new team on a high.
"I'm really excited to be starting my season back home in Australia, and having taken second place in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race last year I'm definitely on a mission to perform in 2017," said the 27-year-old. "My pre-season has been going well, I'm excited to be with a new team and I will be disappointed with anything less than a strong result on January 29th."
Howard will be joined by compatriot Calvin Watson , New Zealander Aaron Gate, American Larry Warbasse, Irishman Conor Dunne and Dutch duo Peter Koning and Michel Kreder.
Aqua Blue Sport team owner Rick Delaney explained he is confident in the seven-man squad laying a foundation of success for the 2017 season at the WorldTour event.
"We are delighted with the team that we have assembled for our first race and believe we have the ability to make an impact from the outset in 2017. We are getting very excited about the start of the season and competing in Australia at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race," Delaney said.
"Seeing the navy and gold jersey on our riders in competition is something of a dream come true for me but also the beginning of the journey for Aqua Blue Sport."
The other Pro-Continental teams announced for the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race are Gazprom-Rusvelo, Team Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij and UnitedHealthcare. The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is unlikely to be Aqua Blue Sport's only race on Australian soil with 2017 with its appearance at the Herald Sun Tour (February 1-5) set be announced in coming weeks.
Aqua Blue Sport for the 2017 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race: Leigh Howard (Aus), Calvin Watson (Aus), Aaron Gate (NZl), Peter Koning (Ned), Michel Kreder (Ned), Larry Warbasse (USA) and Conor Dunne (Irl).