Aqua Blues

A year ago Aqua Blue Sport won a stage at the Vuelta, now they’ve pulled out of the Tour of Britain and won’t race again. Teams come and go but rarely do they stop before the season is out.

The team said in announcement it wasn’t going to apply for a Pro Continental licence for 2019 which was left a degree of ambiguity, if it wasn’t applying for that status then what’s the plan? Obviously it wasn’t going to apply for a World Tour licence and dropping down to the Continental ranks is possible but a serious reversal, especially if the team was announcing it wasn’t even interested in trying for Pro Conti status, presumably because it knew it would not meet the requires. Then news the team won’t ride the Tour of Britain arrived and that the squad won’t race again this year.

Mentioning the team’s demise on social media generated several “pro cycling’s sponsorship model is broken” responses. Perhaps, but remember there’s more money in pro cycling sponsorship than ever before, both in the World Tour and the Pro Conti ranks. What’s more certain is that Aqua Blue’s sponsorship model didn’t work. The idea was to be “the Amazon for bikes”, a reference to the online retail giant and to have a website selling bikes and kit both direct and via third party retailers. Team founder Rick Delaney told the Irish Independent (brace yourself):

Look, this year alone, Tinkoff are gone, IAM [Cycling] are gone and that’s just the owners getting bored, the owners having a bad year in business or the owners deciding this toy isn’t playful enough and going off to buy another yacht or do whatever they do… … We’re trying to make it completely sustainable and that’s our uniqueness”

Alas it didn’t work. As mentioned earlier this year the Aqua Sport website was getting fewer hits a day than this blog and presumably the income wasn’t enough to keep the team on the road. It’s no market research steady but browsing the website I found at random a saddle, a chain and a pair of shoes and they were were all significantly cheaper on other websites. Did you shop with them? If not perhaps it was a sign of a problem. One alarm bell was the aborted merger with the Verandas Willems-Crelan team. Aqua Blue announced this only for the the Belgian team to deny it.

There was a Catch-22 scenario here with Delaney bemoaning a lack of wildcard invites which denied him the publicity needed to drive sales but at the same time the team didn’t have a “must have” rider to secure the invites needed. Cycling’s second tier, the UCI Pro Continental, has 27 teams budgets and ambitions ranges from teams like Cofidis with a budget of €10 million a year who ride two grand tours to squads with less than a million Euros who daren’t dream of riding a single grand tour.

Some get invites by virtue of nationality, the grand tours all need home teams but on pure performance it’s not easy to pick but shows why some of the most interesting recruitment moves are in this tier with Fortuneo-Samsic hiring André Greipel and Direct Energie taking Niki Terpstra and Niccolò Bonifazio as they jostle for invitations and big names like this open doors that more humble rosters can’t. Still Aqua Blue enlivened many a race thanks to riders like Conor Dunne and Stefan Denifl took a huge win in the Vuelta to add to Larry Warbasse’s Tour de Suisse stage. But had the team started the Tour de France would it have jump-started the online sales?

It’s tempting to mock the team that bemoaned a lack of invites now ducking out of a big race like the Tour of Britain but it’s not hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another. If only it were, the worry is the money has dried up to the extent that even taking part in a race and collecting the participation allowance isn’t worth it when set against fuel costs, hiring temporary staff on daily rates… the fear is the money has dried up. It’s still a sad end because riders are denied the chance to prove themselves in upcoming races. Typically if a team does end then the management inform the riders well in advance, for example United Healthcare aren’t going to renew their sponsorship and riders were informed of this in March with the subtext that management wanted to find a replacement sponsor but riders should be warned this wasn’t certain.

Can riders transfer?
There is a transfer window to swap teams mid-season but the rules say this exists only for the first 15 days of August. The window is now shut and riders can’t move to another team now. It’s not as if there’s a shortage on other teams, nor that many races left. Only if Aqua Blue were in breach of contract could a rider either become unemployed or try and get their contract torn up and then they could move but again it’s late in the season to land a spot elsewhere.

Wages covered
The says it’s not clear if the riders wages will be paid, normally all riders would be salaried until 31 December. If things are that drastic – and let us hope not – then there is a bank guarantee posted with the UCI designed to cover this eventuality. It is meant to cover all riders as well as full-time salaried staff and roughly works out at three month’s wages. It’s only available as a last resort though and drawing down on it takes time. Those with longer contracts for 2019 can hope the contract will be honoured but it’s not certain at the moment.

Teams come and go but to stop before the season has ended is bad news, it leaves racers unable to race properly and there’s uncertainty given the sudden demise. Ironically this one was launched as a sustainable project but seemed as reliant on its millionaire backer as others.

110 thoughts on “Aqua Blues”

  1. I didn’t even know until today (from reading this and another article on the demise) that Acqua Blue was actually cycling-kit ecommerce site. The main thing I knew about the team from watching them the last two seasons was the riders hated the single-ring set up. Surely as much a failure in marketing as anything.

      • Delaney, translated to Russian, is Tinkov. Same hair. Successful businessman who buys toy and thinks given their great success can change a sports model overnight. When it doesn’t work, takes toys and goes home. It will happen again.

      • That’s the kind of language I use to mean “This is my best estimate, but a lot can change in four years, so don’t be too surprised if I’m wrong.”

  2. No surprise for me. Aqua Blue always struck me as a strange and short term set up. Riders equipment was not main stream so would not attract a large number of inquisitive hits to their web site. It wouldn’t have been evident to many that they even had a web site. Single chain ring bikes that were prone to the obvious shortcomings of these set ups. Disputes with suppliers. There were no serious secondary sponsors in evidence although there were rumours of companies like Dunlop being involved – maybe just as an equipment suppliers.

    The model of teams being financially supported by single wealthy individuals rather than via business or companies appears to have no long term merit or value. When they lose interest or the cash dries up they simply walk away leaving chaos behind them. Not a good model for the sport to try and move forward.

  3. Aqua Blue sell bikes?!? WTF
    I thought they sold goggles, water or investments……nothing in the words Aqua and Blue suggest anything remotely velomatic. I know Wiggle is not something which immediately chimes with cycling, but at least it doesn’t have dramatically stronger associations to other products. Aqua Velo, Blue Bikes, Blue cogs, Aqua chainset might give you a hint……. have to agree with Mr Kimmage’s assessment.

  4. What if…
    It’s not the money…
    It’s not the merger…
    It’s the bikes… 3T signed a 3 year contract with Aqua Blue. The team has been plagued this season with endless mechanical issues to the point where Delaney wants out of the deal. But 3T say NO and threaten to sue if they use different bikes next season. So Delaney declares he is sick of the whole cycling thing and pulls the plug immediately…

    • It wasn’t that bad, they had bikes with double chainrings now. Besides who would sink a whole team because of this, surely it would make both sides look ridiculous with all these jobs going down the drain?

      • 3T never came up with the promised TT bikes also. Vroomen seems to have just shrugged and pointed out that the contract never specified a delivery date.

    • Why can’t people get past the bikes. 1x works all the time for cx and mtb. Plus they had already switched to 2x. Why are people so afraid of new things. It’s like discs or carbon wheels or even carbon bike for that matter. For a sport with such great tech possibilities, its fans are a bunch of Luddites.

      • The bikes were dropping chains due to the freewheel mechanism in the rear hubs and its engagement/disengagement, according to the CyclingTips Podcast. This hub is a 3T product I think? It’s not SRAM anyway. So it’s got little to do with people being luddites beyond any worries about ratios.

        • So how is a hub issue a problem with 1x? No one cites their dislike for the 3T hub. They dislike 1x. I’ve read plenty of reviews for the Strada and none have had these issues. I understood the problem to be chain length when switching cassettes, which in my book is the mechanics’ issue.

          • I didn’t say the hub issue is a problem with 1x.

            To be clearer, what I meant is:

            It strikes me (and you) that some people have been fast to blame 1x for the problems the team have had.

            On closer inspection (and according to an email supplied to the CyclingTips Podcast amongst others) it seems the problems the team have had with the drivetrain and dropped chains were not caused by 1x in and of itself, but with the rear hub used as part of this setup. This isn’t a component supplied by SRAM, it’s a 3T product (which, as an aside, leads me to wonder if there isn’t an alternative that will fit the system on that particular frame, I suspect there isn’t).

            I think most of the controversy surrounding the use of 1x isn’t because of “luddites”. People aren’t scared of 1x – they’re concerned by the gaps between gear ratios, as Morten says below. It will be interesting to see what the pros will say now they’re no longer contracted to ride the bikes.

          • Maybe just have a look at what the Aquablue Riders have to say about their bikes. I didn’t read a single line in defense of that bike although that would be what you would expect the most, right?
            They either stay calm or pour shit over that bike including its drivetrain.

      • 15% to 20% gaps between gears to get a decent range.

        works to some extent for flat road non-elite riders. Im a +45y fattie who does not race and im seriously handicaped if im missing 16t and 18t on a double compact.

        In a pro peloton 1X11: forget it.

  5. From the above it seems that the team foudations were built more on sand than reality, and maybe the team sponsor/director was negligent in a duty of care and responsibility towards the riders and staff. Business models where failure is more than unlikely help nobody and maybe the UCI should check rather than just relying on the bond for 3 months salary cover. Whatever, the team enlivened races while the maillots were among the most classy in the peloton (vaguely inspired by the fifties St Helens Rugby League Club jersey?). Finally, given the results, could the bikes have been that bad?

    • One reason the jerseys look so nice is that, besides a small 3T logo, they are completely devoid of any corporate logos. Even the team name only appears on the sides, nothing on the front or back.
      In other words, the aesthetic simplicity of their jerseys is reflective of their bizarre revenue model.

      • One of the best looking kits around. Might make a decent bargain! Their 2017 Kit was heavily reduced so this may be even worse. On that subject, there were always better deals to be had from Vermarc and other retailers than from the Aqua Blue store themselves.

  6. It seems there were hopes for a synergistic model where the team supported the growth of the business which would in turn support the team. The business failed/is failing and therefore the team folds. Nice idea but it seems the underlying online cycling business proved a harder space to compete with Wiggle than anticipated….

  7. Let’s say the riders’ contracts are honoured. Could those with contracts through to 2019 approach other teams and say “I’ll ride for you for free because I’m already paid by AB” … is that possible?

  8. Fascinated by this story, yes in part because I hail from Ireland. My sympathies lie of-course with riders and staff but it’s the business model that intrigues. Can somebody savvy enough to earn millions from flogging drinks to us Irish really have believed in this self-sufficiency via some rinky-dink website bullshit?

    Pretty much everything about that project seemed wrong from the outside, so wrong as to invite outright suspicion (of what I’m not sure). As many have said, even the name was terrible, failing to make any associations with cycling in the mind of potential customers nor even leveraging the Irishness of the project (which might have given it some sort of unique identity). In the end the only thing they seemed to get right was the design of the team kit, but even as a fat Fred that was never going to get me to the point of pressing the buy button on their website

    • “so wrong as to invite outright suspicion (of what I’m not sure)”

      I know what you mean. In other circumstances, you’d think it was some sort of money-laundering scan.

      • Yes, my thoughts, or perhaps a tax deductible along the lines of Amazon or Apple. Was the website supporting the team, or the team supporting the website…..though I just cannot make that add up unless criminality is involved.

      • I thought exactly the same from the outset. No-one comes anywhere near £12M p/a profit from selling bikes online. And the website was always awful. Too bad to be true. Looked like money laundering to me, too.

        • Bike24, Wiggle, Chain Reaction, Jenson USA, Worldwide Cyclery, Amazon, Ebay, NewEgg, Walmart, and others might disagree with your second statement. Though, your general point is about right Malaconotus.

          • None of those companies makes £12M per annual profits selling bikes. The figures are worth a close look. Turnover is impressive but the specialists on your list just about break even, and Amazon only started making profits in the couple of years. Wiggle/CRC/Bike24, now merged, currently makes a loss. The goal of all of them is market share, in the expectation that profits will come when competition is eliminated.

  9. Wiggle and chain reaction both run cycling teams so aqua blue isn’t anything new in that sense. The fact that no one actually knew who they were, in respect to their on line retail, would be an obvious problem.

    I did know what they did (as I sometimes find myself bored with an internet connection and a wondering what CCC or sidermek actually do). Even then it wasn’t a website I ever went back to and I’ve never seen it come up in internet searches (for bike bits) or in other ads.

    Seems that anonymity outside of a cycling team is probably their downfall. Or perhaps it shows that sponsorship doesn’t actually work. I don’t know.

    • I tend to agree that the website proposition was not marketed sufficiently to come close to being on my list of sites to check if I was buying bike stuff. There wasn’t even much attempt to say “If you want to see this team succeed you need to buy from this site.”

      Good luck to the team staff and riders.

    • > Wiggle and chain reaction both run cycling teams
      Both (sadly) now in the past tense and at a much lower level than AB were trying to race at.

      The AB concept was explained to me by one of their representatives when I was working for a bike brand just after they launched and it didn’t sound like a runner then…

  10. The pro conti survival dance is not yet over, Verandas Willems which was earlier discussed here is next to scramble for a seat. However they do hold a one-year golden contract of Belgian road/cross Wout van Aert supertalent despite open rumors of clashes with team owner. Still curious about the whole non-merger announcement fiasco.

    The unfortunately named construction behind this team is called Sniper Cycling, with a similarly dominant personality in former pro Nick Nuyens. Team supposedly don’t have sponsors for next year. Last night they name-dropped Roompot-Dutch Lottery in a tweet as a possible partner in negotiations stage.

  11. I found their lack of respect, understanding and humbleness especially offputting. Although one has to say, that this was (all?) down to the owner. The whole thing seems to be a typical problem, that comes with a certain kind of person. Three other teams come to mind, who have/had the same problem with someone like that at the helm. tesla also comes to mind. I will never understand how people (ok, let’s be honest: it are mostly men) can put money into a business, that not only loses money (just imagine the lost money of tesla would have gone to homeless or poor people – they could live their whole lifetime in a nice apartment with that kind of money. I would be so ashamed, if I would throw all this money away in the face of people suffering), but also has someone in charge, who clearly thinks money and power are way more important than human beings. I will never understand why so many men think it is „strong“ to be vane, disrespectful, insensitive and uninterested in the safety and wellbeing of others. Kimmage was absolutely right: The nonsense of delaney was enough to know, that this would never have ended well in any case.

    The men mentioned above all seem to come from the same mindset, a mindset, which belongs to the past. And everytime they lose, it is a win for human beings – in the long run. People, who see life this way should never be in charge of the fate of other people. I can‘t wait for things to finally change for the better and for the power to come into more different and more responsible hands. In the face of so many men like those mentioned above, I am always so immensly grateful for every man, who is not that way.

    I tried first to like aqua blue, because they signed Larry Warbasse, but was quickly turned off by delayne. I too had no idea, what they sell. Also wasn’t interested. To think, that having a cycling team (especially a pro conti team!) is enough to make your business profitable is beyond naive. Did they really do any research into cycling? Sponsoring professional cycling works mostly for already established companies, that want to widen their publicity for a certain market or product, which is the reason why many sponsors leave after 3 or 5 years – they simply reached their goal. Or for already established companies, that want to have good publicity, because they need it – the different lotto teams come to mind or for companies, that race in front of their costumers – here french teams and many smaller belgian teams come to mind. It is not the allegedly broken business model, that is to blame for the demise of aqua blue, it simply was never feasible.

    • What the devil are you on about?

      Conflating entrepreneurs and inventors to some male obsession with disrespect and disregard for those less fortunate? Maybe you shouldn’t ride your bike, ever again, and volunteer instead to cleanse yourself.

  12. It kind of feels like Rock Racing but without the publicity and big names…
    Dreadful for the riders, I’m pretty sure that the funding model for cycling isn’t broken, perhaps the financial distribution and outlay system is, there seems to be teams/sponsors spending a lot which distorts the whole system I can’t think of a time when the difference between top and bottom earners was so extreme it’s almost a direct reflection of society?
    Is a world tour realistic, is the calendar too much, I genuinely don’t know?

  13. Hmmmm. My take on this all the way along was that Delaney came across like a cut price Michael O’Leary (he of Ryanair fame). Like others here I was not aware there even was a website so they clearly messed up the advertising for that. Reading the latest reports, including the one here, it strikes me that Delaney perhaps wanted a cycling team on the cheap. Talk of “self-financing” sounds like him not wanting to finance it himself. Clearly, he was no Tinkov or James Murdoch in the money stakes. And that’s the trouble with these vanity projects. If not properly funded they all fall apart leaving those most vulnerable in the worst mess.

    But a further issue is the one of invites to races which seems to me to be corrupt. The Tour invite French squads. The Vuelta invite Spanish. The Giro invite Italian. The only deviation from this is if your sponsor sponsors the race (example: Cofidis and the Vuelta). For other races its about keeping in with race organisers be that ASO or Flanders Classics or whoever. It shouldn’t be like this. It should be fairer and even based on sporting criteria. Race organisers shouldn’t have the power of yes or no over invitations to race. They already don’t in the world tour except for those 3 discretionary invites. So the idea that the field is made up by other criteria is not new. It needs to be extended to all participants, certainly at world tour level.

    • If you think it’s corrupt, feel free to file a lawsuit.
      Even if the wildcards were based on sporting criteria, A-B wouldn’t have got an invitation. #ttyh

      • My argument isn’t that they would or should have. It was that organisers shouldn’t be the ones giving out the presents. Hopefully that is now clear.

        • Not trying to pick a fight, but surely the meritocratic approach to race invites was just the thin end of the World Tour wedge.
          That race organisers have any invites left at all is surprising, and I feel that invited teams being only a fifth or a quarter of the peloton is not too much. After all, you want the locals to tune in / turn out on the roadside.

      • “If you think it’s corrupt, feel free to file a lawsuit.”

        Not saying I necessarily agree with the characterisation, but your response doesn’t follow. Just because something is corrupt doesn’t mean it’s against the law (or in this case, multiple law codes) and therefore open to legal remedy. And even if it was, it wouldn’t necessarily be open to random people who’ve suffered no harm from it to bring legal action.

    • The clue is in the title of the race. It is no neutral race, it is the race of one country. And they are besides other things responsible for the growth of cycling in that country and for their home fans. That is why they invite the teams of their country.

      You can continue your list (although you didn’t, because doing so wouldn‘t fit your ideas) with the following: english races give wildcards to english teams, american races give wildcards to american teams, australian races give wildcards to australian teams and so forth. It has nothing to do with corruption. This is the way it is intented. And when you know something about cycling, you understand the concept. That is why you don‘t hear belgian or dutch pro conti teams whine and accuse race organisers like aqua blue did. It is the typical sense of (undeserved) entitlement certain people always seem to have.

      If you think this is corrupt, you seem to have not a very firm grasp of the concept of corruption. You also seem to have no firm grasp of the difference between races held by the uci or held by a race organiser. But not understanding things never stopped you before, so why should it do now!

      As already mentioned: Based on merits aqua blue would have got no wild cards at all, because they were 13th or 14th of the 27 pro conti teams.

      • Clarifying my point once indicates charity on my part. Having to clarify it twice perhaps indicates some are wilfully misunderstanding or being contrarian. So, I wasn’t arguing on Aqua Blue’s behalf in my second point. I was arguing race organisers should NOT decide who races. It should be based on sporting criteria. Apparently, the argument is now that bike races are there as social services or promotional events for those interested in cycling in their areas. To this extent extending my point to any country and seeing who they invite is both valid and only strengthens MY point. I’m not one of those who thinks that if enough people do wrong then it suddenly somehow becomes right. Neither, unlike you, am I conflate the world tour with any local club crit. My point is WORLD TOUR SPECIFIC.

        It seems somewhat bizarre to argue that the ASO who, as far as I’m aware, run high profile races in France, Belgium and Spain are regarded by you as the guardians of the sport in these places. Really? So they aren’t a company interested in controlling professional cycling races and making profit from it? They are really community-minded cycling fans looking after the good of the sport! Do you actually believe this? Whilst it is understandable people may organise races for local participants at world tour level this just becomes unprofessional. Knowing as a Pro Conti team that if you aren’t French you have zero chance of ever riding the Tour de France is quite simply a wrong that I, for one, am happy to speak out against. There should be a sporting route to entry.

        Now, of course, you’ll ignore what I’ve just said (so far zero comment on the suggestion that entry should be on sporting criteria) so that you can throw insults at me. Take your best shot.

      • Another one who thinks only he has a firm grasp of anything and anybody who disagrees with him not only doesn’t understand anything but also knows nothing about cycling. Great.

        • She, not he. I understand, why you think this, but I don‘t write to anybody else than ronde and one other person that way. If you reread his comments the last years, you maybe understand why. Indeed, the first discussion in my hole life with a populist was with ronde on here (it still sits somewhere in the comments) – back then I was shocked, but since then that this has become sadly much more common, which has lead to me calling things generally more clearly by their name.

          I don‘t think I alone have the answer or knowledge. But before I open my mouth or keyboard I do, what everybody should do and thank god many people do: I think about the subject in question. I test my arguments to look, if they will hold. I test myself, if I am sincere or if my argument is merely driven by emotion. And when I then write something, this usually means I am ready to argue my case, because of course I think, – like everybody else thinks about their case, too – that it has some merit. I understand, that this might feel like I think I am right. But it just is, that I think my arguments will hold. If someone convinces me of the opposite, I am not sad, I am thankful, as there is nothing better (and I mean that) than gaining knowledge and understanding.

          • Anon. If you think our Ron is a Populist, and many of us are aware of the disingenuous nature of that term when used by some, you are on the wrong site. It’s a bike site for bike riders, not a political blog.

            I suggest you try You should really have a fine time there.

      • Uber-fun fact: the same people, namely RonDe, complain here about Olympics road race, cause teams from the whole world are invited equally, and the Dutch can’t bring 15 women riders to the race. It’s all about taking a controversy troll position, no matter what. if you follow this site, you can see this pattern.

        • Funny you use the word troll. All you’ve done here is troll Ronde. Can’t see once where you have ever spoken to the merits or faults of his substantive argument.

          Should we take you seriously or add you to the ignore list?

    • What’s corrupt about a commercial race organiser using the little space they have to choose which teams take part in their races, in order to protect their commercial interest? Sports and nationalism are deeply intertwined, there is no denying that, whether you like it or not. So having more riders from your home country riding in your home race generates more interest. The fact that the vast majority of teams already consists of WorldTour teams that can be from anywhere already guarantees enough diversity I would say. If these were races organized by non-profit international organizations like the UCI it would be a different story, they have a different mission than commercial organizers. But if you look at the WC, you see that there are also nationality criteria used to select invitations, not only sporting criteria. If it was purely based on sporting criteria there would be a lot less riders from ‘non-cycling’ nations. Part of the mission of the UCI is to promote cycling in these countries, so they use their invitations to the WC as a tool to fulfill their mission. The mission of ASO, RCS etc is to make money.
      And if you compare to other sports, cycling is pretty international already. Football/soccer is mostly national or continental, it’s not like any US team can join the Champions League based on the fact that they are better than the Andorra national champions. If Barcelona decided they rather play in the Premier League than in Spain they’re out of luck because they won’t be allowed.

      • Agree with this (although suspect that your last sentence is a little off: if Barca AND Real decided they fancied a move into a new league with some of the big Premier League teams, I reckon an accommodation would be reached). The races benefit from a local presence, because it increases local spectator interest. So the WT balance makes some sense: 85% merit, 15% invites. You could even argue that the two-tier WT makes some sense, as more locally-rooted races don’t have to have as many WT teams.

        What those arguing for “merit-only” WT races seem to miss is the fact that WT status is voluntary; if ASO doesn’t want its races to be in the WT, it doesn’t have to apply for WT status. So the Tour de France could drop down to the European Tour, and have even more power to invite different teams.

        • Nick, I regard this as an empty threat. Let the Tour leave the World Tour and race with 176 unknown French farmers. Who would watch? We see in every sport that what attracts most in the end is knowing that the best in the world are facing the best in the world. Go back to the Vuelta preview thread. A decent proportion of commenters were saying that the race will suffer because Froome and Dumoulin are not there and the winner will therefore be seen as inferior. This has been made worse because a number of the people who are there are clearly not up to the job for various reasons. Go to other sports. Why do people watch top division football over lesser division football? Because the best are playing. This is something that cannot be escaped. The Tour of the Bums would die on its arse.

          • I totally agree with this. The Tour would always want the best riders and the best riders would always want the Tour. But surely that’s my point? Picking local boys just because they are local ultimately doesn’t work because people know when they are watching quality (which, I’m sad to inform my critics, is no respecter of nationality of team affiliations) and when they are not.

          • But if the Tour left the WT it wouldn’t have 176 unknown farmers. All the top teams would still want to race, but it would be the ASO who decided which to invite. So if ASO removed its races from the WT, it would be the WT which was seen as the “tour of the bums”. (especially if RCS and Flanders Classics move too.) The UCI knows this, which is why the races have been able to retain some discretion.

            In reality, ASO and the UCI would probably agree on the top dozen or so teams – the question is really which 10 the races choose out of the next 20.

      • Most race organisers don’t make much money, they heavily rely on sponsorship to make ends meet. Which is by the way in many cases a much more efficient way of presenting your brand to your audience than sponsoring a team. Who needs costly global visibility if your customers are mostly regional?

      • You mention the Premier League. So let’s discuss. It is a well known fact that the majority of the players in the Premier League aren’t English. In fact, most aren’t British either. Further, there are no laws that would enforce them being British because that would currently be illegal. Football, however, is not like cycling because it is organised on the basis of teams from a given territory competing against each other. Cycling is not and, in theory, all you need to do to get into the biggest races is be in the World Tour. But the problem is the discretionary spots. This is what I call “corrupt” because if you aren’t from that country or locality then you know you have zero chance of entry. If you miss out of the Tour de Yorkshire you may not care too much. But imagine knowing you’ll never race a grand tour or monument simply by dint of where your team is notionally from. You may be happy to praise the nationalism of such decisions and you may wish to praise the status quo as every conservative does. But I’m neither a nationalist not a conservative and so this stinks to me. We need a proper sporting structure in which the best pro-conti teams regardless of origin or location get to earn their spots in the best races. Cycling needs to be more thoroughly a sport, a meritocracy, and not a cross between sport and a stitch up that it is now.

        • Principally your position is correct I would suggest that the tradition and getting on for a century for some races prevents this from occurring.
          If you’ve run a race for 60 years say it’s regarded as a classic and everyone wants to ride it surely you get to have some control of entrants as a means of covering your initial speculation and keeping it relevant to the creation of the event?
          Race organisation isn’t easy and there’s been a number of big name events that have disappeared over the years along with those that have come close to going out of business.
          Professional sport isn’t a meritocracy at all money buys everything I’d rather see really entertaining races from a variety of riders from different teams than something just commercial and bland. The addition of Wout Van Aert this spring was phenomenal and something that might not have been seen without the wildcard system?

    • What you are saying is fair enough on the face of it. Contesting top sporting events should be based on merit. But if you kept the wildcard system and based it on merit/results not much would change. At the moment you have the wealthiest pro-conti teams buying the biggest names so that they can attract attention and get an invite. With your system they would still buy the biggest names in order to score the most points/win the most races in order to get an invite.

      • I don‘t see how this „merit“ thing has anything to do with cycling. To spell it out clearly: For me this is in this special case an argument, that someone (ronde) put forward, because of their dislike for european cycling or Europe or whatever. Especially as in other cases he argues for the exact opposite of what he argues here. It isn’t a sincere argument, based in reality, it doesn’t start in the reality, instead the person sets up some ideological points and then argues around them, moving the goalposts with every argument put forth. It isn’t a real, honest discussion, where someone really tries to gain something, namely understanding, but ideological. (I can‘t explain it very well in english, but maybe some understand what I mean).

        The whole of professional cycling is based on money. Like any other professional sport. Teams must have enough money to buy a wt licence and even if a team would have enough wt-points, without the money for the licence, to buy the riders, for the bank etc., they would not become a wt licence. So where is „merit“ in this? And it is really a bit silly to talk of merits, when a team like sky can buy it‘s way into cycling. Their whole concept is based on having more money than others, where are the merits in this? If they would have to compete with the budget of all others, they would be a totally different team.

        The same goes for football and other sports. Good luck for a football club with a stadium for 3000 people to play in the first league in england, germany, spain or whereever, even, if they would manage to play there on „merits“. That is, why this whole „based on merits“ is a red herring. It choses to overlook, the whole reality and prefers to just use it, where it suits the argument. This is insincere. And to argue with someone, who use this mechanism is like wading through sirup, because the moment you counter their argument, they just move the whole premise. Why? Because it isn‘t about getting it right, it is about being right.

        Just to avoid any misunderstanding: I don‘t mean you with „someone“. I just answer to your post, because of the merit thing, because it is such a typical way of those who use idological arguing. You say it perfectly right: Of course we all agree, that it should be based on merits – in a perfect non capitalistic world. But that is not the world we live in. And to then use these arguments, that nobody can argue against, but have no basis in reality as a red herring is so typical. These people like to compare apples with oranges and then pretend, that they aren‘t. And if you play by the rules, stay honest and compare apple with apples, you will never be able to break through, because they are not playing by the rules. I think we all know that by now through discussions with trump fans, brexit fans or in my case with people from the afd or their voters.

        Hopefully this is understandable.

        • I think all he means by ‘merit’, though I might be wrong, is that the top teams in regards to rankings are the ones that receive the wild cards. For example the top ranked Pro Conti teams at the end of the season go to the Giro. End of April go to the Tour etc. I know this has problems and and might create an issue in other ways but it does seem strange that the possibility is there that we have a season where there are a standout top 4 teams and none of them get a wildcard at a GT for the next year.

          • I do understand that, but it ignores the whole reality:
            1. The races are not neutral. They have no duty per se to grow global cycling. That is the task of the federations, clubs and each nation. These races are mainly in 1 country, for 1 country. People there want to see their home riders and that is totally fine. Do you think cycling would get publicity in england without english riders? No. So why pretend it is wrong or even corrupt for french people to want to see french rider?
            2. The french, belgian, italian, spanish teams start, knowing they will get wildcards, because they have races in their country. And they have races in their country, because teams start. Because teams exist of riders, ds and staff, who live in a city or village, which then leads a city or a village to invest in a cycling race. And so forth. It is a cycle of common existence, because cycling is part of a society.
            4. Countries have different wealth. If a team comes from a rich country, it has an advantage per se over teams from a poorer country. Then there are the different team budgets. There can be no „based on merits“, as there simply is no level starting point. As I said, to willingly ignore the differences of wealth or possibilities, to pretend, that all are the same, is insincere.
            3. If the uci wants to have global cycling, they have to organise races with this in mind (good luck with that, I say!). If the Tour or any other race can get no local acceptance or support, cycling will die in an instant. Nothing worse than a race without fans (I remember one particular horrible Tour de Wallonie (I think) a few years ago, it was eerie, I felt so sorry for the race. Nobody cared, the roads were empty). Or one thing is worse: When you get no permits to hold a race or when no city wants to hold the race.

            These are just a few points, there are more. What I meant is, that you can‘t ignore reality you don‘t like and use reality you do like, just because it suits your argument. I think this selective arguing is dishonest. I hope this made clearer what I meant. And one point you made is very important: Every set up has it‘s own troubles and problems.

  14. At a minimum they should have had the URL of their website easily visible on their jerseys as a call to action for potential customers. That’s a serious marketing failure.

    They also could have run promotions on the jerseys: 20% off selected gear through the end of the Vuelta. OK, maybe something less verbose, but there’s a lot of wasted space on those jerseys.

  15. ‘Sustainable ‘ seems an odd word to use for their business model, and an even odder one if they wanted to invite purchases from their website. I may be the only person in the world who was stupid enough to believe that this was some sort of ‘ green’ promotional positioning statement; I thought aqua blue might be something to do with fresh water for everyone on the planet, no plastic in the ocean , all that very popular and trendy stuff. Though having riders chuck bidons and lunch packets over the edge of country roads and down valleys with abandon ( all teams) did make it seem a bit odd.

    So obviously what they meant was self-financing, a rather different objective, though quite interesting. In that case, I can only presume that the founder/ owner was just too arrogant to understand that very few people know as much about your business aims as you do, and you have to explain it, and publicise it – in which case, the blank kit was just bizarre.

    • I think they meant financially sustainable, not environmentally. The idea was to have a website that generated enough income to fund a pro team but obviously if you want to start a business that will generate €4-8 million a year within a few years then good luck, it’s can’t be easy even with 100% focus, even more so if you are also running a sports team at the same time.

  16. I remember the interview with the owner on the cycling podcast a while back and did like the idea of the model. But as you said when I went to the site I found the prices not great and there wasn’t that much choice either. Hopefully the riders and staff can find other teams quickly!

  17. RD has said precisely nothing himself about this whole shambles. For someone so vocal on twitter about all sorts it’s very strange. He had a pretty bad bike crash a short while ago, Someone on twitter also pointed out that ABS was sold or at least has a new CEO since the Sniper acquisition press release debacle too. I wonder if he has actually had a hand in this at all?

    • I think if anyone should remove themselves from the site, and ideally the internet, it’s those who resort to this kind of unwarranted aggression and entitlement.

      If you would prefer to have these posts associated with a name, there’s no reason you couldn’t suggest this politely. Since this site allows posting as anonymous, it’s up to the poster to decide whether to take up this suggestion; not for you to demand it.

      Besides which, it’s not like you can’t see these long-winded posts a mile off, and skip over them, if you so wish.

      • I don’t mind people posting under “anonymous” but if you come back here regularly it helps to pick a pseudonym otherwise it’s hard to tell one person’s comments from another as the default setting for comments without a name is “anonymous”

  18. If closure was concluded all within the boundary of laws, chapter 11 well executed then nothing but the jungle laws in a capitalist situation. Intentions can be many.

  19. The PR did work on me, in that I picked up from TV commentary on a race that Aqua Blue was a cycling retail site. I’m suprised so many people here didn’t get the message. But I do watch a lot of bike racing.

    So I went on the website last year to see if I could buy stuff there and make a consumer contribution to funding the team. But the site didn’t have the items, or the prices, I needed to prompt me to buy there. It felt amateur and didn’t inspire confidence.

    Which is a real shame, because I think the team have been pretty good. They’ve got in a lot of breaks, Connor Dunne in particular has been conspicuous in repeatedly getting in the breakaway, often on successive days. The website was not of a similarly competitive standard. I’ve not been back.

    So it looks like lots of the target audience for the site didn’t even get the message it existed, and then if there were lots, like me, who had a look and didn’t like it – there was no future for this model.

    • Interesting as I too had heard commentators mention the website on numerous occasions. Quigley, Kirby & Keenan (not a law firm) to name but three. The reaction above shows a couple of things. One that many fans don’t watch, for whatever reason, a lot of the early coverage where these types of things are discussed as filler. Two, that getting a ROI via advertising a team means you need winners and to be competing at the sharp end of a race. Commentators like to say that riders get into breaks to advertise their sponsors and even though that can be true, maybe it doesn’t garner the same sort of advertising return it did in the past?

      • Thinking through Team sponsors, I’m only in the target audience for a few;

        Trek/BMC/… pb Cannondale (I knew them anyway. They are very prominent in most bike outlets I use. I don’t ever think their wins are because of the quality of their bikes, but I do appreciate that they invest in the sport and their teams give them a profile of being a “big” and reputable brand).

        Sky (I know them already. They had huge PR issues in the UK a few years back. The cycling team do buy some positive emotion, as they were the trigger for me getting interested in the sport and I supported them like a football team for a bit).

        UAE/Merida/IsraelCA (I know these countries, and have critical feelings about some of them regarding human rights. I do think the long, drip feed, exposure of TV cycling helps to normalise their image.
        Astana have done a great job in raising my awareness of their country, of which I was almost completely ignorant).

        Aqua Blue (already discussed).

        If I can draw any conclusion from this, it’s an expensive but potentially effective way to promote a nation/large corporation to me in the UK, particularly if they wish to counter negative perceptions: reputation launderate.

        I’m not sure about Belgian Lotto, French credit cards etc as I’m not in their market.

        • Belgian Lotto sponsorship isn’t really a PR thing, it’s a not so covert way of state-funding a team. The lotto is state-owned and I think it is obliged by law to spend all of its profits on sports and culture sponsorships. (Monfort can be certain of conctract until he retires by the way bc. of this, there have to be some French speaking Belgians on the squad or hell breaks loose). I think it’s a very similar situation for FDJ actually.

          • Merci Stevhan. More examples of state support that is not in the traditional marketing model of promote product more to sell more product. Perhaps this is both a result of the existing business model of cycling and a contributing factor to it? Breeding more reliant on the deep pickets of state funding.
            In some ways, it looks like a strange testing ground for the decline of late capitalism.

        • Funnily enough, I’m not sure that sponsorship in cycling has the same effect as in other sports. If you’re in the UK for example, a dyed in the wool football fan knows the teams and probably knows the shirt sponsors. Definitely for their team and those teams who they see play. The shirt sponsor therefore gets their name out to people who watch the sport. (You can add to that replica kits which may have a small impact with the general public.) With cycling though, because the team is named after the sponsor, the followers of the sport don’t think of the ‘product’ as much. Ask a real cycling fan what they think of when they hear Team Sky and they’ll think about the riders or results or controversies etc. Ask someone that catches a bit on the news or sees something in a newspaper and Team Sky means Sky PLC.

          In other words, unless you’re already a well known brand, the sponsorship of a cycling team is not going to do much to casual cycling fans and nothing to those that happen upon a race because there’s nothing else on and they like sport. Only those that watch ‘the boring bits’ and/or read sites like this will learn about brands they’ve never come across unless they’re winning big races and pro Conti teams rarely do that. Even then, as we’ve seen with Aqua Blue, people who follow the sport and comment on a niche (though superb 🙂 site like this, still didn’t know what they did. It doesn’t auger well for small teams that realistically can only attract smaller sponsors. If you’re a BT or Vodaphone though…

          • Side note….is ‘funnily’ a thing? i’ve never heard that word in my entire life and now in the last 3 weeks i’ve either read it in a column or comments or heard it on and interview now for the 4th time. The first time I read it…i though…that’s not a word. but it is….i guess

          • Funny you should ask as that question was put to me the other day…

            Maybe it’s an Australian ‘thing’. Which I must ask, since when did saying ‘thing’ become a… thing…?

          • “Funnily enough” is indeed a valid phrase; it’s an adjective and is used because in British English, “funny” has two meanings – “amusing” and “peculiar”.

  20. I read that Mr. Delaney had a serious accident less than six weeks ago, he was knocked off his bike and brokers several bones. Perhaps this contributed to his decision?

  21. Like many others I never knew ABS was a cycling equipment website. I thought it was the Irish version of Evian or something like that. The notion that a newly started website could immediately compete in the already pretty crowded world of online bike stores (bikecomponents, bike24, bike-discount, wiggle, chain reaction etc etc) and pay for a team too indeed seems a little absurd. Only very big players in very big sports (e.g. Christiano Ronaldo) can pay for their own salaries by merchandising sales.

      • Blaming 3T and WVA for the failure of a vanity project based on very unconventional funding seems a bit tall. I do wonder about the WVA situation because after all Sniper/Crelan did merge with another team. Anyway it will be quite a spectacle to have WVA and Van Schip on the same squad come the next round of spring classics.

        • The WVA chapter for 2019 not set just yet. He and his manager openly unhappy with his situation. “Poor communication” especially attributed to team boss Nick Nuyens apparently. Had earlier openly toyed with “sabbatical” in 2019. New combined team yet to feature a quote from him.

      • Seen that comment from ‘Marc Ten’

        As somebody who worked at Aqua Blue in the early days this comes as no surprise.

        The Family lacked experience and understanding of the real world like I’ve never seen before. When we first got up and running the talent, passion & real world experience I saw from the Team, Back of house staff, IT and E-commerce was awesome but we were constantly fighting decision makers who didn’t have the slightest clue on the correct decisions and moves to make.

        This family business is a classic example of when people are calling the shots based on their DNA and have absolutely zero skills. They then wonder why things are slower or not quite what they expected and start blaming everybody else. Anybody who stood up to the family was removed in a flash…..

        I feel very bad for the 30+ staff I’ve seen burned in the past 2 seasons. I hope they all land on their feet.

  22. I wouldn’t bemoan vanity projects too much. How many of us, if we scooped the Euromillions Jackpot would be interested in running/putting money into a cycling team?

  23. The demise of capitalism. Even further to the cycling industry as a whole. Cyclists’ contracts were on the discussions each yr, (as if on parole) : number of wins(check!) number of winning second positions (check!) number of non-performances (check!) number of DNFs (check!) Your 5M Euros we’re deducted accordingly… Mapei-Quick Step probably having the best memory of all. Then you think of Johan Museeuw, followed by Colnago C-40 … capable of surviving the cobble stones and many hilly climbs @21/23T. Most of all the hand paint jobs on frames!

  24. And also failed advertising style….how am I supposed to know from the name that this is a cycling internet store? How am I even supposed to know by looking at the jerseys, who is the sponsor? If you wanna score some clicks you need to put it on your chest that everyone can see it and recognize it. I’m not an advertising expert but it kinda makes sense. Look at the Vuelta stage win one year ago! Jee there’s some advertising space on that chest!

  25. Intrigued by those saying ‘Aqua Blue’ sounded to them like a bottled springwater brand – to me it always sounded like toilet cleaner/bleach

    A considerably more utilitarian, even unattractive product

Comments are closed.