Aqua Blue Sport, the new Irish Pro Continental team, has unveiled five more signings, with current WorldTour-level riders Adam Blythe, Larry Warbasse, and Andrew Fenn joining Mark Christian and Daniel Pearson to finalise the team's 2017 roster.
The team, founded by businessman Rick Delaney and launched earlier this month with the aim of reaching cycling's top tier within four years, now has 16 riders on board for its debut season, in which it hopes to earn an invite to Milan-San Remo.
Blythe, who beat Mark Cavendish to become British road race champion in June, joins the team after a season in which he has regularly ridden in support of world champion Peter Sagan at Tinkoff. The 27-year-old has had something of a yo-yoing career to date, having spent his first four professional years at WorldTour level at Lotto and BMC, before dropping down to British Continental outfit NFTO in 2014 and then moving back up for a season apiece with Orica-GreenEdge and Tinkoff.
"Signing with Aqua Blue Sport offers me a great opportunity to get the most out of myself in 2017, and to have the support to be able to do that," said Blythe in a statement from the team.
"My goal for next season is to win bike races. It is exciting to get young and hungry guys behind you, and to be on a smaller team where you are all trying to get the most out of each other in every race you are competing in."
Warbasse joins from the IAM Cycling team, which is folding at the end of the season after its management struggled to secure sufficient sponsorship to keep the team afloat. The 26-year-old turned pro with BMC in 2013 and this year rode both the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.
"It's not often you get an opportunity to join a project from the start, especially one as ambitious as this," said Warbasse.
"Each and every member of this project has a unique opportunity, as it is not only on the bike successes that define us. I hope to make an impact off the bike as well as on it, in building the future of Aqua Blue Sport."
The third WorldTour rider to be recruited is Andy Fenn, who has struggled to fulfil his potential during his two seasons at Team Sky. The 26-year-old showed great promise during his early professional years at QuickStep, and moved to Sky in search of more opportunities, but hasn't really established himself as a key part of their Classics line-up.
The final two riders on the roster are Mark Christian and Daniel Pearson, both joining from the Continental WIGGINS team.
Christian, a 25-year-old Manxman, has split career so far between the track and the road, while Pearson, a 22-year-old Welshman, signs his first pro contract after coming through the Italian Zalf development set-up and finishing fifth at last year’s Giro della Valle d'Aosta.
The five new riders join Lars Petter Nordhaug, Martyn Irvine, Matt Brammeier, Conor Dunne, Stefen Denifl, Leigh Howard, Michel Kreder, Peter Koning, Aaron Gate, Calvin Watson and Lasse Norman Hansen in signing for the team. It is understood that all the riders are signed on rolling two-year contracts.
"We are an ambitious team and want Aqua Blue Sport to be in with a chance of winning races from the outset," said Delaney.
"We are delighted with the strength in depth of riders that we have assembled and when considered alongside the support system we have put in place around them 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."