Although the title sponsors and bikes are the same, the relationship between the new Hagens Berman U23 development team and the Jamis-Hagens Berman UCI Continental team are more of an informal network of friends, former teammates and shared business connections than an official farm system for the pro team.
"I used to ride for the Colavita-Sutter Home team back in the day and was teammates with Sebastian Alexandre, who runs the Jamis program now," said Hagens Berman U23 co-owner and manager Todd Herriott. "So it's been a synergistic relationship for sure. The U23 team is riding Jamis bicycles this year, and that's not by coincidence. Steve Berman works closely with us, and we brought him to Jamis. So it's a good little family."
Although the new U23 squad also shares a title sponsor with the longtime Pacific Northwest domestic elite team run by Lake Washington Velo, which has helped produce current pros Svein Tuft, Tyler Farrar and Adrian Hegyvary, among others, the two teams are not part of the same program.
This inaugural Hagens Berman U23 team is an effort by Herriott and business partner David Richter, owners of the HSP management company that runs the team. Longtime cycling sponsor Steve Berman put some of his Seattle law firm's funding behind this new team in the off-season, with the mission of supporting hand-picked U23 riders as they gain the experience needed to become the next generation of pros.
The 2014 roster will feature nine U23 riders and two juniors. Five of the U23 riders will be in their first year out of the junior ranks. Nine of the riders are from the US, and many of them are currently part of USA Cycling's national team pool. Nineteen-year-old Owen Gillott is from Brisbane Australia, while 20-year-old Sebastian Trillini, brought to the team's attention by the Jamis director, Alexandre, is a top U23 rider from Argentina and a Pan Am Games gold medal winner on the track and on the road.
"We thought it would be nice to have some international flavor on the team, different cultures, it would be good for the kids," Herriott said.
The junior riders on this year's squad are 18-year-old Zeke Mostov and 17-year-old Adrien Costa, an apparent cycling prodigy who won USA Cycling's Junior 15-16 national championship road race and time trial last year.
Racing as a 16-year-old in the Pro/1/2 field of the 2013 Mt. Hood Cycling Classic, Costa finished the difficult final-day Three Summits Road Race in fourth place, three spots ahead of overall winner and current Team SmartStop rider Cameron Cogburn. Costa finished the stage with or near current Jamis-Hagens Berman riders Ian Crane and Stephen Leece, as well as 2014 Bissell Development Team riders Chris Putt and Logan Owen. Costa was just outside the top 10 of the final general classification, finishing 11th.
The 17-year-old started this season with an overall win of the Pro/1/2 category at the Madera Stage Race in California on the strength of two winning time trials. His junior teammate, Mostov, was second overall in Pro/1/2 Madera race, while Gillott won the criterium.
The young riders will likely get a chance to test themselves against top domestic talent at national races like the Redlands Bicycle Classic and Joe Martin Stage Race, Herriott said, but rules do not allow the juniors to compete with the Continental pros in UCI races like the Tour of the Gila.
Overseas trips with the US national team will provide riders with the international experience they'll need, while the domestic team will keep them busy racing at a high level at home in National Race Calendar events and other regional and national races, according to Herriott. The eventual goal for the team is to get a UCI Continental license that will allow it to be considered for the major North American UCI 2.1 and 2.HC races in California, Utah, Colorado and Alberta.
The team held its first training camp in January to familiarize the riders with each other and their 2014 equipment. Another training camp with a greater focus on riding will take place March 25-30 in Oxnard, California.
Hagens Berman U23 Development Team 2014 roster: Stephen Bassett (USA), Adrien Costa (USA), Jordan Cullen (USA), Michael Dessau (USA), Daniel Gay (USA), Owen Gillott (AUS), Eamon Lucas (USA), Colby Wait-Molyneux (USA), Zeke Mostov (USA), Jeff Perrin (USA), Sebastian Trillini (ARG)