Aqua Blue Sport await Licence Commission decision on Pro Continental status

Team Aqua Blue Sport are the only team still waiting to have their status confirmed for 2018 after the UCI unveiled the full list of successful WorldTour and Pro Continental applicants on Monday.

The Irish squad enjoyed a successful debut campaign at Pro Continental level in 2017, landing a Vuelta a España stage win through Stefan Denifl, but their application to continue in the second flight next season has yet to be approved.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, the UCI said that Aqua Blue Sport's application "is still under review by the Licence Commission. The UCI will make an announcement in due course."

A spokesperson for Aqua Blue Sport told Cyclingnews that the delay was "just a matter of documentation." 

The team later issued a statement on the matter: "As announced, the 2018 registration application by Aqua Blue Sport is still under review by the UCI Licence Commission and a further update will be issued in due course. Aqua Blue Sport continue to work closely with the Licence Commission to ensure all criteria for attribution are fulfilled according to UCI Regulations and until that process is complete will be making no additional comment. In the meantime, our management, staff and riders continue focused on preparations for the 2018 season and look forward to clarifying this matter promptly."

Last week, reported that Aqua Blue Sport would no longer back their Irish-based amateur team, Aqua Blue Sport Academy, in 2018.

In November, it was announced that Leigh Howard and Lars Petter Nordhaug – who each had contracts for 2018 – would leave the team with immediate effect. Howard has opted to switch his attention to the track, while Nordhaug has retired from professional cycling. As was the case this season, Aqua Blue Sport are due to carry a 16-rider roster for 2018, with Shane Archbold and under-23 Tour of Flanders winner Eddie Dunbar joining a squad that already features Adam Blythe, Larry Warbasse and Denifl.

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.

In recent weeks, Aqua Blue Sport have 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.

Aqua Blue Sport scored four wins in 2017, including Denifl's victory at Los Machucos on stage 17 of the Vuelta, and Warbasse's solo triumph on stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse.

Twenty-six of the 27 applicants for Pro Continental level have had their status confirmed by the UCI, including American squads 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 the WorldTour have had their status confirmed for 2018, while 14 squads had their status rubber-stamped by the UCI. Education First-Drapac, Lotto-Soudal, Quick-Step Floors and UAE Team Emirates all received the green light from the Licence Commission.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.