Irish cycling has been thrown a lifeline with the announcement that the new EvoPro Racing team will form a 17–man roster for its debut season as a professional outfit in 2019.
With the Rás Tailteann still without a title sponsor and the sudden closure of the Aqua Blue Sport team last August, EvoPro will prove some relief for Irish cycling which is going through a tough period in terms of attracting investment at a sporting level.
“EvoPro was born out of pure passion for the sport of cycling and a belief that we can build a sustainable multi-year project focusing on exceptional talent and strength of character in our cyclists,” said Morgan Fox, head sports director of the team.
Fox, himself a former national champion, brings experience to what will be a youthful team with an average age of just 24 and from nine different countries.
“It’s an Irish team but with an international feel — we have 17 riders from all over the world; Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Britain, Albania, and Spain.”
On the home front, the team has signed two strong prospects with Mark Downey and Matthew Teggart both coming across from Team Wiggins.
The other Irish riders on the roster include Aaron Kearney, Cormac McGeough, and Dairé Feeley.
A major coup for the team was the signing of Dutch sprinter Wouter Wippert who, with 12 professional wins to his name, will be the team’s go-to man for results.
The team will begin at Continental level but has its sights set on expanding in the years to come.
The choice to enter at a lower level will rule them out of competing at the bigger races such as the Tour de France and other Grand Tours but they will travel the globe to some of the other flagship events on the world calendar in their maiden season. Fox explains the plan is to build from the ground up.
“We have a budget of around €1m with potential other sponsors who could add to that. Our first year will be Continental; you need a year behind you and you have to make your mark but longer term we have Pro Continental ambitions — I believe we have the fighting spirit that’s required,” said Fox.
EvoPro Racing opens the 2019 season with a split squad, one at the New Zealand Cycling Classic and Herald Sun Tour and the other at the Mallorca Challenge.
The team will also focus on a strong performance at the eight-day Rás Tailteann in May, should the race go ahead.
Navan based PJ Nolan will oversee the operations of team in the role of general manager. Nolan, who was elected as a board member of the Olympic Council of Ireland (IOC) in 2017, is focused on ensuring the team will be competitive wherever they race.
"EvoPro will contest over 120 days of racing throughout the world with a roster of prolific winners. We have picked a team that can work together and deliver spectacular results for our investors and partners, and showcase the passion and integrity that is cycling,” said Nolan.
Despite the Aqua Blue Sport team departing suddenly and Sky pulling sponsorship at the end of 2019, Fox believes cycling is generally in a healthy state.
“I don’t think it is a bad time, it’s just a lull in sponsorship, if you look at the race scene in most of Europe, Asia, China, and Japan it’s very healthy.
“We want 10 professional wins in 2019, it’s a challenge but we have a good squad.”