Irish champion Conor Dunne is set to race with Israel Cycling Academy during the 2019 season and his contract will be paid out by Aqua Blue Sport owner Rick Delaney, according to a report in Cycling Weekly on Friday.
Dunne raced for Aqua Blue in 2017 and 2018, and was contracted to race for the team again in 2019. Aqua Blue had been in talks with Sniper Cycling for a possible merger for 2019 but those negotiations broke down in the summer and Delaney decided to end the team in August. All contracts with riders and staff would be annulled and they did not start Tour of Britain in September, where they were scheduled to compete.
Delaney said he felt obligated to cover Dunne's 2019 salary because he had already signed with the now-folded Aqua Blue team for next year. "Conor was the last rider that I had re-signed for 2019, so I had an obligation to Conor that he had something for 2019. So I've supported his salary for next year. That is me done with all contractual agreements, exactly what I said I would do," Delaney said in the report.
Aqua Blue rider Andy Fenn, who raced with the team for two seasons, penned an open letter to the management due to the lateness and uncertainty relating to salaries. However, CEO Tom Timmerman, who has since stepped down from his position, stated that all salaries relating to the team would be covered by the UCI bank guarantee, a figure of €400,000, which was set aside to cover the salaries for the remainder of the season.
It was announced in November that Dunne signed with Israel Cycling Academy. Delaney said that he is supporting Dunne's salary because he want to honour his existing deal with the rider, and that riders had been paid for 2018.
"The fact of the matter is that every single rider that was under contract has been paid for 2018 and every rider who was under contract for 2019 has either found something else or as in the case of Conor, I have supported,” Delaney said in the report.
Israel Cycling Academy manager Kjell Carlstrom said Dunne will be a valuable asset to the team because of his strength and capabilities as an aggressive rider. "He has race smarts: He knows when and how to move in the peloton as you can see from his quite successful breakaway rate attempts,” Carlstrom said.
As for Delaney, he said his contribution to Dunne’s salary in 2019 would be his final dealings with the sport of professional cycling. "Never in my nanny would I return after that circus!"
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