Newly created Irish Pro-Continental team Aqua Blue Sports have announced the addition of seven riders to its 2017 roster headlined by IAM Cycling's Leigh Howard and Stefan Denifl. The seven riders follow the quartet of Lars Petter Nordhaug, Martyn Irvine, Matt Brammeier and Conor Dunne in joining the team.
The team is aiming for a start at the Tour de France within four years and has started to assemble a roster that will allow it make the dream a reality.
Australian Howard joins the team after spending the 2016 season with IAM Cycling in which he made his debut Tour appearance and enjoyed victories at the Clasica de Almeria and stage 1 of the Tour de Fjords. While the fastman is aiming to continue his winning run with the team, he added he is keen to ensure a successful season overall for the squad.
"I want to win races of course, but cycling is a team sport so success comes from a team point of view," Howard said. "For Aqua Blue Sport success won't just mean podium places – we're a new name so we'll need to prove ourselves, and prove that we deserve to be up there as a pro team."
"I love the idea of being part of an Irish team – I raced in the Tour of Ireland in 2009 and absolutely loved every minute of it, apart from the rain. To be a part of the first pro conti team to come out of Ireland is really exciting, even though I'm not Irish!" he said.
Howard's IAM Cycling teammate Denifl adds WorldTour and climbing experience to the roster with the 31-year-old explaining is he excited by the new challenge.
"We have to grow and fight as a team and success will come with that," Denifl said. "Personally I am looking forward to a good preparation for 2017 and a year where I will be at my best. I am highly motivated to achieve my goals and the team's goals, on and off the bike."
"From first contact onwards, the people behind this team have shown great motivation, professionalism and a new vision for a cycling team."
"I feel that Aqua Blue Sport believes in me as a rider and as a person, and this is the environment that I want for my future development."
Aqua Blue Sport also announced the addition of Dutchman Michel Kreder (Roompot Oranje Peloton) and Peter Koning (Drapac), and Olympic Games Omnium medalist Lasse Norman Hansen. An Post Chainreaction duo Aaron Gate and Calvin Watson will also ride the team next season.
Created by Irish businessman Rick Delaney, Aqua Blue Sport has secured backing for the next four years when it will look to make the jump up to the WorldTour. The team has already secure wildcard invitations to Milan-San Remo, the Amstel Gold Race and the Tour of Britain, with further signings and race invitations to be made in the coming weeks and months.