Aqua Blue riders determined not to let the team down after surprise Vuelta invitation
The Irish team will ride aggressively during their first Grand Tour in August
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Irish team Aqua Blue Sport, despite being in their first year, say that they will not disappoint in the Vuelta a España this August.
>>> Vuelta a España 2017: The route Chris Froome’s been waiting for?
Vuelta organiser Unipublic named the professional continental team in the starting line-up along with French team Cofidis, Spain's Caja Rural-Seguros RGA and Colombia's Manzana Postobon. They will race August 19 to September 10 with the 18 WorldTour teams.
"I don't think it's proving ourselves so much, but it's more about not letting the team down because the team is putting so much into this," British Champion Adam Blythe told Cycling Weekly.
"The team is putting so much into this with the best equipment, some of the best bikes, the best bus... So it's only fair that we give a bit back."
Blythe just finished stage one of the Three Days of De Panne. He rode to the team’s matte-blue bus, Tinkoff's former bus re-painted, and showered. He stepped off and smiled, delighted more by the Vuelta news than the day's racing that saw Philippe Gilbert (Quick Step Floors) attack and win solo.
It was a busy debut for the Irish team of Rick Delaney. While the blue and gold team raced in Australia, Oman, the Netherlands and Belgium, the management met with Unipublic and ASO to speak of their worthiness. Tour de France organiser ASO owns Unipublic and the Vuelta.
Often teams fight for years in the second division before earning a wildcard spot in one of the three Grand Tours. South African team MTN failed at its first requests in 2013, but received the nod to the Vuelta a year later.
The race organiser is putting much faith in Aqua Blue with an invitation already in year one. The team counts results – two second places in the Herald Sun Tour, and Blythe second in both the Handzame Classic and Nokere Koerse – but no win yet.
"Yes, [I'm] really surprised, first team in its first year and a professional continental team, so to get the invitation is pretty special," Matthew Brammeier said.
"I think we are there racing pretty well in the first couple of months of the season. We been very aggressive and have some good results.
"In the first year... It's not really a done thing [inviting a] team straight away, so they must have a lot of confidence and faith in us and we are all grateful for that.
"I don't think we'll let them down, we will go there and race aggressively. We have a good team with strong climbers and break away guys, will be going there to get in the breakaways and get out there to try to win a stage."
The team hopes to become a self-sustained team within three years based on its Amazon for bikes online-retail model. Over the winter, it snapped up several strong riders including Blythe, Brammeier, Andy Fenn, Lasse Norman Hansen, Larry Warbasse and Mark Christian.
"We haven't have had a win yet but we've been knocking on the door for quite a while, now we can go get a win," Blythe continued. "We're definitely motivated and very proud, I'm especially proud of the team.
"I’m proud of the team for not straying away from its ideas and vision. This invitation is just another step up to achieving our goals.
"The invitation would've been surprise if you told me that in January. It wasn't such a surprise but I was more chuffed and happy that we got in. It's a compliment to the team, saying you doing a good job and you deserve to be there."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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