Top Irish domestic cycling squad Aqua Blue Academy have merged with Planet X Carnac to form new sponsorship deals which will see the team race as Viner-Caremark-Pactimo in 2018.
The team features a mix of young and experienced riders. Amongst the top domestic riders lining up for the team this season are Matteo Cigala, Sean Lacey, Ronan McLoughlin, Connor Hennebry and Greg Swinand.
Matteo Cigala is a former Junior and U23 rider with the Italian National team and has taken numerous wins since moving to Ireland. In 2017, he was the top ranked rider in the country and was four times winner of the county rider prize at the An Post Rás with three top ten stage placings. Amonst his wins last season were a stage of the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan and the Brian McNamara Memorial.
Sean Lacey is twice winner of the National Series and last year, he also won the Munster Championships. Greg Swinand meanwhile broke the Irish Elite Hour Record during his attempt at the M50 World Hour Record last November. In addition, he also won the World Master 50 Time Trial Championships.
Ronan McLaughlin brings vast experience to the team having raced for the An Post Pro Continental team for six years and represented Ireland in the Elite Men’s Road Race at the 2012 World Road Race Championships. Since returning to Ireland, McLaughlin has won the Gran Fondo NI and the Donegal Wild Atlantic Way 555-kilometre Ultra Race.
Amongst the younger members of the team are Luke Smith, Aaron Kearney and Ronan Tuomey. 19 year-old Smith competed in the European and World Championships on the track and road in 2016 and 2017. Kearney won both the Deenside GP and Barrow Wheelers GP while the youngest member of the team – 18 year-old Ronan Tuomey – won the Kanturk 3-Day overall in 2016 and 2017 in addition to winning a stage of the Junior Tour of Ireland.
Conor Hennebry spent last season at An Post-Sean Kelly and is a former Tour Of Ulster winner. Sean Hahessy, Dylan Foley, Anthony Walsh, Craig Rea and Keith Fox are all very strong riders in their own right and quite capable of winning having all tasted success in the past.
The General Manager for the team is former professional and elite national champion Morgan Fox ably assisted by former top international and Aqua blue pro team director Timmy Barry who guided his team to a stage win at the Tour of Spain in 2017 plus Frank Campbell who for many years acted as Cycling Ireland national team director and has vast experience and tactical nuance. Alan Heary provides sports performance and psychological coaching , Scott Kinsella equipment manager ably assisted by Seamie English and the morale booster John Hammond who is a Soigneur extraordinaire with a handy photography talent to document the year ahead.
The headline sponsors for the team are Viner Bikes distributed by Planet X Ireland in Athlone , Caremark (Care services) and Pactimo (Premium Race Clothing) with long-time Irish cycling sponsor Dan Morrissey quarry products , Actionphysio.ie , Selcof components, Carnac helmets and glasses, AlanHeary.com, Velodoc, c2p coaching Hutchinson tyres and Born sports nutrition also providing support to the team.
The team will be targeting races such as the Kerry Group Rás Mumhan, Tour of Ulster, Tour of the North and the Rás Tailteann, the National road series and will also line up in a number of races abroad. The Ras stage 1 is of particular interest seeing as the first stage finish is near the teams headquarters in Athlone.
Viner-Caremark-Pactimo Team Line-Up 2018
Sean Lacey (Kerry)
Matteo Cigala (Meath/Brescia)
Ronan McLoughlin (Donegal)
Anthony Walsh (Dublin)
Sean Hahessy (Cork)
Greg Swinard (Wicklow)
Conor Hennebry (Waterford)
Luke Smith (Meath)
Dylan Foley (Cork)
Aaron Kearney (Waterford)
Craig Rea (Antrim)
Ronan Tuomey (Cork)
Keith Fox (Westmeath)
John Horgan (Cork)