Shane Archbold will leave Bora-Hansgrohe and join Aqua Blue Sport for the 2018 season. The New Zealander missed most of this season due to a back injury, which was a lingering consequence of the heavy crash that brought a premature end to his debut Tour de France in 2016.
Archbold finally returned to action in recent weeks and has played a key role in helping Sam Bennett claim a hat-trick of stage wins in the opening three days of the Tour of Turkey. His transfer to Aqua Blue Sport was announced on Friday morning.
"Having been through a challenging period of my career hampered by injury, I am ready to move on to the next chapter," Archbold said. "I have followed the progress of Aqua Blue Sport with interest and believe the team to be an excellent fit for my future ambition. I look forward to a fresh start, to getting to know my new teammates and to some exciting racing in 2018."
It will be Archbold's second stint on an Irish team after he spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons at Continental squad An Post-Chain Reaction. Archbold moved to Bora in 2015, where he linked up again with his old An Post teammate Bennett, forming a key part of his lead-out train.
The 28-year-old Archbold has a strong track background. He took the silver medal in the Omnium at the 2011 World Championships and won gold in the scratch race at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where he also claimed a bronze as part of New Zealand's team pursuit effort.
Archbold sustained a broken pelvis when he crashed on stage 17 of his Tour de France debut in 2016, and though he completed the stage, he had to abandon the race four days shy of the finish in Paris. Although Archbold managed to return to racing before the end of last season, he required surgery on bulging discs in his back this year and was forced to miss almost the entire campaign.
"Shane has demonstrated great resilience in returning to form following a spell of rehabilitation and since coming back to racing has shown a resurgence of the kind of ability that brought him to the WorldTour," said Aqua Blue general manager Stephen Moore. “We are delighted to have him on board for 2018 and look forward to taking advantage of his strengths."
Aqua Blue Sport enjoyed a solid debut season at Pro Continental level, earning a wildcard berth at the Vuelta a España, where Stefan Denifl claimed stage victory at Alto de los Machucos. Larry Warbasse scored the team's first WorldTour win when he claimed a stage victory at the Tour de Suisse.
Archbold joins under-23 Tour of Flanders winner Eddie Dunbar and under-23 European champion Casper Pedersen among Aqua Blue Sport's confirmed signings for 2018.