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December 3, 2014 – Since 2009 Axel Merckx has created a reputation for finding the best U23 talent in the world. His list of former riders is a who’s-who of current and future World Tour stars: Taylor Phinney (BMC), Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale Garmin), Ben King (Cannondale Garmin), Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing), Nathan Brown (Cannondale Garmin) and many others. What began life as the Livestrong team morphed into Bontrager as the Armstrong link became toxic. When Trek Factory Racing sucked up Bontrager’s 2014 budget Merckx landed Bissel and his program continued to thrive. Today marks the latest rebranding with an aim to transcend the revolving door of cycling sponsorship much the way Slipstream has.
What follows is the full text of the new 2015 Axeon Cycling Team’s announcement.
Axel Merckx is excited to announce the re-launch of the 2015 U23 Development cycling team newly-branded as the Axeon Cycling Team (pronounced “ak-shun”). The development program’s achievements in 2014 were the strongest to date with Ruben Zepuntke’s stage win and GC podium placement at the Tour of Alberta, and Greg Daniel’s 2nd place finish on Stage 4 of the AMGEN Tour of California. The Axeon Cycling Team will be supported by: Atlantech, NEON Adventures, Bissell, Cipollini, SRAM, and the American Proficiency Institute. The team is excited to welcome these new partners to the team and NEON Adventures that signed on as a part of a 3-year partnership. The team will embark on a tough 2015 race schedule that will include the AMGEN Tour of California, USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Tour of Utah and the U23 Paris Roubaix, among others.
This UCI Continental team, rebranded as Axeon, was originally founded in 2009 with the goal of developing the best young talent into pro riders. Since the program began it has sent 18 riders to the pro tour ranks including: Taylor Phinney (BMC), Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale Garmin), Ben King (Cannondale Garmin), Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing) and more.
The Axeon Cycling Team will continue to be registered in the United States which requires that 60 percent of the riders be American citizens. The roster will be structured similarly to previous years, with 10 Continental riders and two “club” riders fresh out of the junior ranks. Geoffrey Curran (USA), Greg Daniel (USA), Daniel Eaton (USA), Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR), James Oram (NZ), Logan Owen (USA), Chris Putt (USA), and Keegan Swirbul (USA) are returning members. New riders include Ruben Guerrero (POR) and Justin Oien (USA), as well as club riders Will Barta (USA) and Phil O’Donnell (USA).
“My goal is to create a team legacy and a program with a strong name that will endure,” said Axel Merckx. “I believe we have the best riders in the world signed for 2015. With continued hard work and attention to doing things the right way, this team will be known as the team that young riders strive to join, the one of which pros will be proud to call themselves alumni.”
The team was rebuilt and able to sustain over last season thanks to Bissell, Trek, Ale, American Proficiency Institute, Advantage Benefits, SRAM and more. 2015 Partners include Atlantech, NEON Adventures, Cipollini, SRAM, Bissell, American Proficiency Institute, Specialized Tires, Tacx, Giro, Oakley, Honey Stinger, Ale, DMT, lululemon, Park Tool, Beaker Concepts, Thule, and Groove Automotive Group.