Axeon Hagens Berman today announced the UCI has accepted the US development team's application for Pro Continental status next year.
The U23 team, which will compete as Hagens Berman Axeon in 2018, started in 2009 as Trek-Livestrong before Bontrager picked up title sponsorship in 2012 and 2013. The team rode under the Bissell banner in 2014 and then signed Neon Adventures in 2015, changing the name to Axeon. Hagens Berman came on board in 2016 and will take over title sponsorship next year.
"For us, it's another major step in the growth of the program and it wouldn't be possible without the support of Steve Berman and his firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, that stepped up so we can be Pro Conti," said team director Axel Merckx.
Since its inception in 2009, Merckx's development program has graduated more than 20 riders to the WorldTour, including the most recent signings of Neilsen Powless to LottoNl-Jumbo, Logan Owen to EF Education First, Chris Lawless to Team Sky and Jhonatan Narvaez to Quick-Step Floors.
Hagens Berman has had a longtime relationship with cycling, sponsoring amateur teams in the Pacific Northwest before jumping to the pro ranks with Jamis from 2013 through 2015. Next year’s team will mark the first time Hagens Berman has taken up the title role with a pro team.
"The team's transformation as it grows is thrilling," said Steve Berman, managing partner and co-founder of the national plaintiffs law firm sponsoring the team, "and we're proud to partner with a team as dedicated to excellence as we are."
Axeon's move to the Pro Continental ranks comes at a time when two other US Continental teams, Rally Cycling and Holowesko-Citadel, are also making the move. Both Axeon and Holowesko-Citadel missed out on invitations to the 2017 Tour of California when the race moved onto the WorldTour calendar and was allowed to invite only two Continental teams. The jump to Pro Continental level gives the team a better shot at getting into the biggest race in the US as well as other upper-echelon events.
"The large, competitive races are obviously very important for us to be a part of in the United States moving forward," Merckx said. "The program is as strong as ever, and the move will give us the opportunity to participate in additional races throughout the season."
The team has announced eight riders so far for the 2018 roster, including João Almeida from Portugal, William Barta from the US, U23 time trial world champion Mikkel Bjerg from Denmark, Cole Davis from the US, Zeke Mostov from the US, Jasper Philipsen from Belgium, Thomas Revard from the US and Maikel Zijlaard from the Netherlands.