UCI confirms Aqua Blue Sport's Pro Continental status for 2018

Irish squad returns for second season at Pro Continental level

Aqua Blue Sport will again compete at Pro Continental level in 2018 after the UCI Licence Commission approved the team's application.

The Irish squad was the only applicant not to be confirmed on the initial list of Pro Continental teams published on Monday, with the UCI explaining that its status was "still under review by the Licence Commission."

A spokesperson for Aqua Blue Sport told Cyclingnews that the delay was "just a matter of documentation" and on Thursday afternoon, the UCI issued a statement confirming that the team's licence application had since been approved.

"In accordance with the UCI Regulations and following a full review of the registration file, including all criteria for attribution (ethical, financial and administrative), team Aqua Blue Sport (ABS – IRL) has been awarded the status of UCI Professional Continental Team," read the UCI statement.

The confirmation of Aqua Blue Sport's licence means that there will be 27 Pro Continental teams in 2018, including three newcomers to the division from the United States - Rally Cycling, Holowesko-Citadel and Hagens Berman Axeon – as well as the newly established Vital Concept squad, managed by Jerome Pineau and led by Bryan Coquard. All 18 applicants for WorldTour status have had their licence requests approved.

Aqua Blue Sport enjoyed a successful debut campaign at Pro Continental level in 2017, earning an invitation to the Vuelta a España, where they claimed a stage win through Stefan Denifl. Larry Warbasse clocked up another WorldTour win for the team at the Tour de Suisse.

The Aqua Blue Sport team, which are owned by Cork businessman Rick Delaney, arrived at Pro Contintental level in 2017 with the aim of establishing a self-sustaining finance model within three years thanks to revenue generated by an associated cycling marketplace website.

Although Aqua Blue has recently ceased its backing of the Aqua Blue Sport Academy amateur squad, the Pro Continental outfit has confirmed a spate of equipment partners for 2018, including Selle San Marco, Quarq, Speedplay and 3T. On Monday afternoon, Aqua Blue Sport announced further partnerships with Oakley, 226ers, Morgan Blue and Oranjeboom, and also revealed its kit for the coming season this week.

The team will again carry a 16-rider roster for 2018, with Shane Archbold and under-23 Tour of Flanders winner Eddie Dunbar joining a squad that again features Warbasse, Denifl and Adam Blythe.

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