Monaco-based businessman behind Ireland’s first pro team

Posted on: August 4th, 2016

Cork’s Rick Delaney is the man behind the huge effort required to transform Team Aquablue from a very successful domestic outfit to an international pro team competing at ProContinental level in the months ahead.

 

By Brian Canty

The man behind plans for what will be Ireland’s first ever professional cycling team has said creating a ProContinental squad will be one of the best things ever to happen in Irish cycling, and possibly Irish sport.

Rick Delaney, a Corkman now living in Monaco, is a passionate and lifelong follower of the sport and believes the new team is all set to become a reality.

All going well, they will be granted a UCI licence by the end of the month and join the Pro Continental ranks in 2017.

“I think we’re at the point of no return, to be perfectly honest with you,” he said.

“I’d go as far as saying I’m 90 per cent sure it’s a go; subject to the UCI approval, which is a formality. We’re going through the registration process at the moment with the UCI.

“Our bank guarantee needs to be in place for the 15th of August, which will be done.

“And we’re currently and actively looking for equipment sponsors. We’re trying to develop relationships with bike manufacturers, transport and logistics partners.

“So it’s incredibly complex, far more complex than we thought it would be.

 

Martyn Irvine has already undergone surgery in Taiwan

Martyn Irvine is a target for Aquablue, be it as a rider or a mentor. The former world track champion and Olympian has a long and distinguished career and Delaney feels he still has an awful lot to offer.

 

“But we’re getting there and we’ve set ourselves a deadline of the end of August to be registered and to have an equipment partner. And that looks, as the days and hours go by, more and more likely.”

Delaney said while finding the right riders was obviously essential, the building of a team infrastructure to support the riding staff was the key priority at present.

“We’d like to get one or two big names,” he said of signing riders. “We’d like to get one big Irish name but we’ll have to see who’s available, who’s willing to make that jump.”

Of the available Irish riders, the only name Delaney was willing to disclose was that of former world track champion and Olympian Martyn Irvine.

“Martyn would be a target of ours,” he said. “I think he’s still capable of winning races.

“But more importantly he would act as a great mentor to younger riders so certainly he’d be on our list; to be associated with us at worst and at best to ride with us. Let’s see where it goes.”

Aside from the Newtownards man, Delaney said the pro ranks were obviously very challenging but he believed the team could help Irish riders develop.

 

Delaney may live in Monaco but he is Cork to the core and is clearly determined to put Ireland on the map with its own professional team.

 

“In terms of Irish riders, while there is phenomenal talent, it’s different at a pro conti level. It’s going to be challenging to find Irish lads capable of winning races at this stage.

“But hopefully, our infrastructure will tap into Irish raw talent and turn them into proper quality pro racers and that’s the focus.”

In terms of staff, there will also be a healthy spread of Irish people as well as other experts from across the globe.

“We’re going through the whole recruitment process with riders,” added Delaney.

“We have identified our performance staff of which four are Irish and three are non-Irish; that’s everyone from our team doctor through to coaching.

“There’s a guy called Lee Bryan (more commonly known as ROK); we have developed a very strong friendship.

“We were riding our bikes one day last December and we were talking about the Irish pro circuit and how non-existent it was and how we’ve produced some good talent over the years and how cool would it be to have an Irish team and it grew from there.

“So ROK is the team director, he has 25 years experience. He works with Froome, Richie Porte and all the other Aussie riders; Michael Matthews, Caleb (Ewan), (Mark) Renshaw.

“So he has a vast knowledge. Barry Murray (formerly of BMC) will be our nutritionist.”

 

Tim Barry got Delaney involved in the domestic scene by suggesting he sponsor what has now become the successful Team Aquablue outfit at home.

 

The team will ride a single-race programme, meaning no more than one race at a time. And it will sign in the region of 16 riders.

“Our race programme will be the obvious ones; Yorkshire, Britain, California, Dubai, they’re the big ones,” said Delaney, rattling of a list of events that offers a firm indication of his real ambition for the team even in its first season.

One day races will also be a feature, with other stage races possible for the Irish outfit including the tours of Turkey and Croatia.

Delaney said if the team has 16 riders or close to it, a one-race programme is appropriate.

“Multiple race programmes will put stress on the whole programme from start to finish and we want to compete,” he said.

“We don’t want to do this just because we can; we actually want to win races. The idea is to take good riders and make them excellent.”

Delaney is an ambitious type and in business he’s been highly successful.

Aquablue, after which the team will be named, sells beer and wine around the world and it’s one of several companies Delaney is involved in.

He says creating a new pro team represents an effective and good value way to advertise his interests and should enable a number of his entities to benefit.

 

Talented young riders like Sean McKenna could well get a chance to race at the highest level next year with the Aquablue team as the team have a philosophy that’s aimed at “making good riders excellent”.

 

“For us personally; the biggest buzz of all is that it’ll be Ireland’s first pro cycling team,” he said.

“I know we have An Post but they’re a conti team, that’s a different thing,” he added in reference to An Post-Chainreaction competing at Continental level – the third tier of three in pro cycling.

“This will be Ireland’s first professional cycling team. Take me out of it, forget my name; (creating a pro team) alone is fantastic. It’s not about me.

“You go to the Tour and you see Irish corner and you see the passion the Irish fans have for Irish cycling and to have our own professional cycling team would be unreal.

“That’s the motivation, it really is. I love cycling; I love all things about cycling.

“I think cycling is the most underrated sport on the planet in terms of what it does to you physically, it’s probably the toughest sport in the world.”

And he is adamant the team can really lift the whole Irish cycling scene – “not just Irish cycling, Irish sport”.

He continues: “Don’t underestimate it, take me out of it, forget me, and forget the money; just the fact we will have a professional cycling team…

“The goal obviously is to ultimately become a WorldTour team and compete at the highest level, that’s the goal. When or how we’ll get there I’m not entirely sure; but baby steps.

“This thing started six years ago in the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork where Timmy Barry asked me for money to fund an Irish team.

“It started there and now look at us, we’re about to go pro conti. And who knows; we may, may make the next step to the World Tour, let’s see.”

 

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