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Aqua Blue Sport says it won't be racing in 2019

Irish Professional Continental outfit cites failed merger with Verandas Willems-Crelan and lack of wild card invites to big races

Irish UCI Professional Continental team Aqua Blue Sport says it will not be applying for a renewal of its licence and therefore will not be racing in 2019 following the failure of a planned merger with the Belgian outfit, Verandas Willems-Crelan.

Earlier this month, Aqua Blue Sport announced that it had acquired Sniper Cycling, the latter team’s management company together with the contract of its star rider, cyclo-cross world champion Wout Van Aert, though Sniper denied that any such deal had been reached.

Aqua Blue Sport, set up by businessman Rick Delaney, had hoped to be “the world’s self-sustained cycling team,” financed through revenue from its online marketplace that brings together independent brands and retailers.

In its debut year, 2017, it received a wild card invitation to the Vuelta where it enjoyed a stage win courtesy of the Austrian rider, Stefan Denifl. The same year saw Larry Warbasse take a stage at the Tour de Suisse as well as the US national championships.

The team was unable to secure wild car place for major races including the three Grand Tours this year, however, something it highlighted in a statement posted to Twitter this morning confirming it would not be seeking a licence for next year.

"We, Aqua Blue Sport, started this project over two years ago with huge ambition, gusto and optimism that we could actually make a difference,” the statement began. “This year we have found it increasingly difficult to obtain race invitations and recognition from race organisers in how unique and how well supported our project should be.”

The statement addressed the proposed merger with Verandas Willems-Crelan, saying: "Aqua Blue Sport cycling team have been negotiating tirelessly with another Pro Continental team regarding an acquisition/partnership.

“Over the past weeks we had formed the basis of an agreement many times, but unfortunately common sense did not prevail. We believed on numerous occasions that the deal was so far advanced that it was a foregone conclusion that a partnership would be achieved.

“Today, August 27, 2018, we now find ourselves in a position where we can categorically state that all negotiations have been terminated."

The statement continued: "We are extremely proud of our achievements over the past two seasons and made history in being Ireland’s first professional cycling team, first Irish team to participate in a Grand Tour and first Irish team to win a stage at a Grand Tour. We have had the pleasure of making many friends on the journey.

"I guess it’s fair to say that we have made some fundamental mistakes, and errors of judgement, ultimately bringing our ‘on road’ ambitions to an unfortunate end.

“We are, of course, not going to give up with our passion of becoming a sustainable cycling team and will continue to grow and develop our e-commerce platform to enable us to return to the road unshackled sometime in the future.”

Aqua Blue Sport added: "We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have supported both our e-commerce website and our cycling team."

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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