Fine Vuelta for Aqua Blue
Irish team looking to expand roster and get more race invites in 2018
Stage wins in Grand Tours are prized by every team, but few can have had more significance than the victory taken by Aqua Blue’s Stefan Denifl at the already infamous summit of Los Machucos during the Vuelta a España’s final week. The Austrian climber’s success justified the decision made by the Vuelta’s organisers to award the fledgling Irish team a wildcard place in the race and also raised the squad’s profile to an unprecedented level.
Team owner Rick Delaney described Denifl’s win as “a dream come true” and admitted that he had been reduced to tears when the Austrian crossed the line. “Just to be here is an honour, and to win a stage when you’ve got names like Alberto Contador and Chris Froome chasing you is fairytale stuff,” Delaney told Cycling Weekly.
“We battled on after the incident with the bus,” said Delaney, in reference to the loss of the team’s bus in an arson attack during the Vuelta’s second week. “Everybody connected with the team has made a great effort. I couldn’t be happier.”
Victories for wild-card teams in Grand Tours are rare, particularly for those making their first appearance at that level, and Delaney is confident the success will benefit Aqua Blue next season. “Fingers crossed, it won’t be as difficult to get access to races next year, as we’re dependent on invites,” he said. “Hopefully, race organisers will see us as being good for business.”
Delaney acknowledged that adding to the team’s 16-rider roster is vital if Aqua Blue is to achieve its longer-term target of a place in the Tour de France. Confirming the team’s commitment to home-grown talent, the highly rated Irish youngster Eddie Dunbar will join in 2018, but more arrivals are likely. “We’re going to try to expand the roster next year, and performances like Stefan’s victory at Los Machucos will help attract new names,” said Delaney.