Although the mystery remains as to whether Chris Horner will compete for another season in 2016, his 2015 team confirmed today that it will return to the UCI Continental level next season as Team Illuminate.
Team General Manager Chris Johnson told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that Horner's future with the US Continental team remains undecided, but he expects the 44-year-old former Vuelta a Espana winner to return in some capacity next season.
“Chris Horner's health conditions limited his racing ability in 2015, but they didn't affect his love of cycling, and that is what our team is all about,” Johnson wrote in an email to Cyclingnews. “Maybe Chris will be racing in 2016, maybe he will be driving the team car; I can't confirm at this time, but I know he believes in our mission and will be involved in some capacity.”
Johnson did confirm that the former Airgas-Safeway team will be back next season with the new name and at least 12 riders from five different countries. Johnson revealed two new riders for next year: two-time track World Champion and 2012 Olympian Edwin Avila from Colombia and current Mexican national time trial champion Flavio de Luna.
“Both of these athletes are not only champions on the bike, but are also role models within their communities and ambassadors for their respective countries and the sport as a whole,” Johnson said of his two new riders.
Avila, 26, competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics for Colombia in the men's team pursuit and is a two-time track World Champion in the Points Race. On the road, Avila raced the past three seasons at the Pro Continental level with Team Colombia, which is not continuing next year. In 2015, Avila finished third and fifth in two stages at the Tour of Utah. He twice started the Giro d'Italia with Team Colombia, finishing the Grand Tour in 2013 and taking eighth during stage 3 of the 2014 race before finishing outside the time limit on stage 9.
In a statement released by the team, Avila said he is excited for the opportunity to continue his development as a cyclist and to represent Colombia internationally. He's also looking forward to racing more in the US.
“The races I've been in in the US have been great for me,” he said. “I've had my best results there, so I'm really looking forward to join the team. I'll keep giving my all, giving my best for the team and for my country. I hope I can learn more from everyone in the team and help in whatever I can, share also the experiences I've had in the last three seasons.”
De Luna, 25, spent the past three seasons with Team SmartStop after riding at the Pro Continental level with Spidertech in 2012. De Luna finished eighth overall at the 2014 Tour of the Gila and was 19th overall at the Tour of Utah this year while riding in a support role for stage winner and brief race leader Jure Kocjan. De Luna will start his 2016 season at the Tour de San Luis as part of the Mexican national team.
“Team Illuminate brings an opportunity to race bikes and show the world why I have dedicated myself to the sport of cycling,” de Luna said in a statement released by the team. “With this team, I have a new perspective and I believe I can reach in a positive way people all around the world.”
Johnson said the team will maintain its relationships with many of its previous sponsors, adding that the team would reveal more details about its five-year plan at its official presentation in February. He also said two-time US pro champion Bart Bowen will return in 2016 in his role as team director.
“He has been a key part of our program for the last two years,” Johnson said.
Aside from a full US schedule last year that included the Tour of Utah, the team also competed at the Tour d'Azerbaïdjan in May and China's Tour of Qinghai Lake in July.
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