Axel Merckx announced today that his U23 development program will re-brand itself as the Axeon Cycling Team for the 2015 season.
Pronounced like the world "action," the new name is part of an effort to re-brand the six-year-old program that began in 2009 as Trek-Livestrong. The team changed title sponsors to Bontrager in 2012, and it raced this season as the Bissell Development Team. Merckx told Cyclingnews earlier this year that he wanted to create a brand that would hold up through the inevitable sponsor changes.
"My goal is to create a team legacy and a program with a strong name that will endure," Merckx said in a statement released with today's announcement. "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."
Rather than bring in one title sponsor, Merckx's goal was to develop partners who would share the financial support for the team. In 2015, the team will be supported by Atlantech, Bissell, Cipollini, SRAM and the American Proficiency Institute. A sixth sponsor, NEON Adventures, signed on as part of a three-year partnership.
The UCI Continental team will continue to be registered in the US, and the roster will be structured similarly to previous years, with 10 Continental riders and two "club" riders fresh out of the junior ranks.
Returning riders include Geoffrey Curran (USA), Greg Daniel (USA), Daniel Eaton (USA), Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr), James Oram (NZl), Logan Owen (USA), Chris Putt (USA) and Keegan Swirbul (USA). New riders include Ruben Guerrero (Por) and Justin Oien (USA), as well as club riders Will Barta (USA) and Phil O’Donnell (USA).
Merckx's program was originally founded with the goal of developing the best young talent into pro riders. Since the program began it has sent 18 riders to the WorldTour ranks, including Taylor Phinney (BMC), Lawson Craddock (Giant-Alpecin), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin), Ian Boswell (Team Sky), Alex Dowsett (Movistar), Ben King (Cannondale-Garmin) and Jasper Stuyven (Trek Factory Racing), among others.
Highlights from the 2014 season included Gregory Daniel's second-place finish during stage 4 of the Tour of California and Ruben Zepuntke's stage win and third-place overall finish at the Tour of Alberta. Zepuntke signed with Cannondale-Garmin for next year.
After six years on Trek bikes, the team will switch to Cippolini machines next season, while SRAM will continue to supply the components. The team will unveil its 2015 jersey in the coming weeks, according to today's announcement.
2015 Axeon Cycling Team:
Returning riders: Geoffrey Curran, Greg Daniel, Daniel Eaton, Tao Geoghegan Hart, James Oram, Logan Owen, Chris Putt, Keegan Swirbul.
New riders: Ruben Guerrero, Justin Oien, Will Barta, Phil O’Donnell.
Not returning: Nicolai Brochner, Clement Chevrier (to IAM Cycling), Alex Darville (to Airgas-Safeway), Ryan Eastman, Tanner Putt (to UnitedHealthcare), Nathan van Hooydonck (to BMC Development Team), Ruben Zepuntke (to Cannondale-Garmin).