New Irish Pro Continental squad Team Aqua Blue Sport has named their first four signings. Norwegian rider Lars Petter Nordhaug will be the team's leader, while Irish riders Matt Brammeier, Martyn Irvine and Conor Dunne were also confirmed on the team's roster for 2017.
Aqua Blue Sport, which was set-up by businessman Rick Delaney, will be Ireland's first Pro Continental squad. Delaney has assured funding for at least four seasons with two-year rolling contracts offered to the riders. It was confirmed last month that the team had signed 10 of 16 possible riders for next season, with more announcements expected later this week.
Nordhaug joins the squad after two seasons at Team Sky, his second stint at the squad. The 32-year-old is an experienced racer, having turned professional in 2005. "Since the first time I have spoken with the team I have been really impressed with the way they think, with their approach to managing the team and with the entire philosophy behind it," he said in a team press release.
"At this stage in my career I really believe that this philosophy will help me to be the best rider I can be and to focus on delivering the performances that I know are in me. That's why I chose to join Team Aqua Blue Sport."
Irvine steps out of retirement to join the team after calling time on his career at the start of this season. In 2013, Irvine became the first Irish male to win a senior track world title in more than a century when he won the scratch race. Most of his success has come on the track but he spent two years at Pro Continental level when he raced for UnitedHealthcare in 2013 and 2014.
"It took a really special offer to coax me out of retirement but the opportunity to compete at this level with an Irish backed team is something I couldn't pass up," he said. "Very few Irish athletes get the experience to ride at this level so I feel very lucky to be getting this opportunity and not just about competing but being part of what Rick is trying to achieve."
Brammeier joins the squad from Dimension Data, where he has been for the past two seasons. Dunne is the youngest of the signings so far at 24 and it will be his first time at Pro Continental level. He began his career with An Post-Chain Reaction in 2014 and has spent this season racing for the British JTL-Condor squad.
Nicki Sorensen has come on board as a sports director along with Irishman Tim Barry. Leigh Bryan, an Australian who has coached Stuart O'’Grady, Richie Porte and Simon Gerrans among others, will be the team's Director of Performance Operations. Stephen Moore will be the team's General Manager while former Team Sky doctor Alan Farrell also joins the team.
In the press release, the team states their desire to compete at the Tour de France by their fourth season and will be in attendance when next year's route is revealed later this month in Paris. They have also already earned invitations to Milan-San Remo, the Amstel Gold Race and the Tour of Britain.