Former Irish Olympic cyclist and World Track Champion, Martyn Irvine was in Cork to officially announce his signing for Aqua Blue Sport – Ireland’s first Professional Continental cycling team established by Irish businessman Rick Delaney. He and Irish riders Matt Brammeier, a five-time Irish champion, and Conor Dunne, former Irish time trial champion, will join Team Leader Lars Petter Nordhaug in the Aqua Blue Sport squad for the 2017 season. The remaining riders will be confirmed in coming weeks.
Delaney, originally hailing from Cork, has a long term vision for Team Aqua Blue Sport. He has guaranteed financial backing for the team for four years, with rolling two year contracts for the riders. By removing the added burden of financial uncertainty, his aim is to create a rewarding team culture with athlete welfare firmly at its heart.
Delaney commented, “I fell in love with cycling decades ago so this is a personal passion of mine. By removing the financial insecurity so often associated with cycling teams, my hope is to create a team environment that will see athletes thrive, and in turn positively impact on performances.”
The Team Aqua Blue Sport riders will be supported by a top tier backroom team composed of team Director of Performance Operations, Leigh Bryan, Dr. Alan Farrell as Team Doctor, former Irish international cyclist Stephen Barrett as Director of Athletic Performance and Nicki Sørensen, formerly of Team Tinkoff-Saxo and Tim Barry as Sporting Directors. Stephen Moore will serve as General Manager.
The ultimate goal for Team Aqua Blue Sport is to participate at a World Tour level by year four and compete in the Tour de France, but for now sights are firmly set on the 2017 Professional Continental season which so far includes Milan-San Remo, Amstel Gold and the Tour of Britain. Team Aqua Blue Sport have also been invited to attend the launch of the 2017 Tour de France by event organisers ASO.
Speaking about being signed by Team Aqua Blue Sport, Nordhaug said “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. 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, said at the announcement, “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. 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.”
Speaking about being signed by Team Aqua Blue Sport, Brammeier who will represent Ireland at the upcoming UCI World Road Champions in Doha, Qatar said, “The first time I spoke to Leigh (Bryan, Team Aqua Blue Sport Performance Director) it felt like the perfect team for me. It struck me as something completely new for cycling but exactly what cycling needs. Also, what’s hugely important for me is the idea of rider enjoyment and happiness being central to the ethos of the team – that’s my number one priority.”
Martyn Irvine, 31 from Newtownards, Co. Down is a former World Champion in the scratch race becoming the first Irish World Cycling Champion in 116 years. A 7 time Irish national track and road cycling champion, Irvine represented Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics. He raced for the UnitedHealthcare team in 2013/2014 before representing Madison Genesis in 2015.
Lars Petter Nordhaug, 32, from Norway is a former Norwegian national road race champion. He joined Team Sky in 2010 staying for two seasons. Nordhaug joined Belkin for the 2013/2014 season before rejoining Sky from 1st January 2015. A stage winner on the Tour of Ireland in 2009, Nordhaug made history in 2015 when he won the Tour of Yorkshire having lead from start to finish after winning the inaugural stage.
Matt Brammeier, 31, born in Liverpool to second generation Irish parents is a five-time Irish National Champion. He has twice returned from serious injury and raced at World Tour Level with Team Dimension Data in 2016. A stage winner in the 2015 Ster ZLM Toer, Brammeier also achieved podium places in the 2014 Langkawi Tour; 2012 Tour of Qatar and 2011 Österreich-Rundfahrt Tour of Austria. He is also founder of Africa Kit Appeal, a charity he founded to help supply young African riders with surplus or unneeded professional cycling kit.
Conor Dunne, 24 was born in St. Alban’s and traces his Irish roots back to his father’s side of the family, with his paternal grandfather hailing from Edenderry, Co Offaly and his grandmother from Charlestown in Mayo. A winner of the inaugural stage at the 2013 Tour of Ireland, Dunne was also the Irish Time Trial Winner in 2012. He has ridden at Continental Level since 2014 and includes a 1st in the 2016 Rutland-Melton International Cicle Classic and podium places in the 2015 Irish National Road Championships and on stage 4 of the 2015 Tour d’Azerbaïdjan amongst his notable achievements.
Backroom Team Biographies
Rick Delaney is a Cork-born entrepreneur and businessman whose interests include an international drinks distribution network. Delaney has been a long term supporter of Irish cycling through his sponsorship of Team Aqua Blue, one of Ireland’s leading amateur teams. Central to Delaney’s vision for Aqua Blue Sport is the creation of a team not only capable of competing amongst the very best in the world but an environment that allows the riders to fulfil their potential on and off the bike.
Nicki Sørensen brings with him 16 years’ experience as a professional rider as well as two years as Sporting Director at World Tour Level. A four-time Danish National Champion, a stage winner in the Tour de France and the Vuelta de Espana, Sørensen’s last career win came in the 2012 Gran Premio Bruno Beghelli. Retiring as a cyclist in 2014, Sørensen served for two years with Tinkoff-Saxo as Sporting Director and coach before joining the Israeli Cycling Academy Team in 2016.
Tim Barry is well known to all those involved in Irish cycling. A former winner of the Shay Elliott Memorial, the Tour of Ulster and the Rás Mumhan, Barry is a former Sporting Director of Cycling Ireland as well as of Irish Amateur Team Aqua Blue.
Stephen Moore is General Manager responsible for team logistics. He has a keen interest in cycling and has extensive sports industry experience including time in sports brand management for large multinational companies working across multiple markets.
Leigh Bryan is the Director of Performance Operations for the team with a focus on High Performance Athlete Support. Bryan has a comprehensive background in education and sport science having served as a coach to a variety of teams and athletes in motorsport and professional cycling, including a personal coach to Olympic gold medallist Stuart O’Grady.
Alan Farrell joins the Aqua Blue Sport as the Team Doctor from One Pro Cycling where he was Medical Director during the 2016 season. A lifelong cycling fan who made the move into professional cycling in 2012 becoming Head of Medical Services for Team Sky travelling with the athletes on the World Tour race programme.
Stephen Barrett is a former international track and road cyclist and triathlete who will bring his experience of being a high performance athlete combined with his sports science background to Team Aqua Blue Sport. Barrett is currently a lecturer in Sports Science in the Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Science at Waterford Institute of Technology and a member of Cycling Ireland’s High Performance Advisory Group.
Jamie Delaney is responsible for much of the ’off-bike’ activity of the team as Marketing Director for Team Aqua Blue Sport. An experienced marketing manager with a masters in Digital Marketing and International Project Management, her role will see her involved in managing team communications across multiple channels as well as overseeing everything from branding to kit design.