Rick Delaney, owner of the new Irish Aqua Blue team, hopes the outfit will be self-sufficient within three years with an innovative new business model.
Citing the faults in the current sponsorship model in professional cycling, Delaney says that relying solely on principal sponsors is not sustainable, pointing out the Tinkoff and IAM Cycling teams that are folding at the end of the year.
Instead, Delaney plans to open an online cycling store, dubbed the ‘Amazon for bikes’ which is predicted to be able to fund the team by year three of the project.
“The revenue from this website will go directly to this team. I, or any of the directors, won’t receive a penny. We’ve done projections for the next four years and it should be more than enough to finance the team. And that’s the sustainability factor,” he told the Irish Independent.
“I’m reading what people are saying on social media, ‘oh this is only as good as one man’s chequebook and the day he walks away that’s the end of it’, but that’s not the case, the case here is to create the first sustainable cycling team, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The store will reportedly launch in November before going live in Ireland, Britain and Germany in January. The USA follows in July and by 2019 Delaney hopes he will be able to put his own chequebook away and see the team funded entirely by the e-commerce project.
Aqua Blue have applied for a UCI Pro Continental licence for 2017 and have already recruited several high profile riders. Irish riders Martyn Irvine, Matt Brammeier and Conor Dunne have signed up to the project, as has Team Sky‘s Lars Petter Nordhaug.
Delaney has taken advantage of IAM Cycling’s demise from the sport, signing up sprinter Leigh Howard and GC rider Stefan Denifl. Lasse Norman Hansen – Olympic Omnium winner in 2012 – signs from Stolting Service Group, while Aaron Gate and Calvin Watson come on board from An Post Chain Reaction
“I’ve spoken at length with the IAM guys, because we’ve signed a few, and this year has been horrendous for them. So that’s what we’re trying to avoid. We’re trying to make it completely sustainable and that’s our uniqueness,” Delaney said.