American Christopher Blevins announced on Thursday that he would leave the Hagens Berman Axeon team in 2019 in order to pursue mountain biking. Blevins won the silver medal at the 2018 U23 cross country world championship, and has opted to focus on that discipline in the run-up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"It's been an incredible two years with Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team, but I will not be returning to the team in 2019," Blevins wrote. "Like many junior road cyclists in America, I dreamed of riding for this program for a long time, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to do so the past couple years."
Blevins, 20, won the Course de la Paix Juniors in 2016 with the US national team before signing on to Axel Merckx's development programme. He won a stage and the points classification at this year's Tour of the Gila, too, but has consistently mixed in off-road racing with great success. Blevins won the U23 cyclo-cross title in January, then won a stage at the San Dimas Stage Race before taking victories in the US Cup XC races in Bonelli and Fontana. Blevins was third in the elite XC race at the USA Cycling MTB National Championships before taking silver at Worlds in Lenzerheide.
"I’ve arrived at a point in my cycling career where my goals have come into clear focus, and my heart knows which direction to point in – and that’s towards the mountain bike. I’m excited to dedicate my full time and energy to the dirt side moving forward in 2019," Blevins wrote, while being profuse in his thanks to Merckx and the team.
"The team's exceptionalism echoes throughout the whole staff. Everyone involved creates an atmosphere to help us grow as cyclists and as people. I wouldn’t have been able to balance two full seasons of multiple disciplines without this environment and Axel Merckx’s receptiveness to my goals.
"I never forget how cool it is to come together with teammates from all over the world, and I’ll never take for granted the bonds that are built throughout this sport. It’s something that extends beyond just bike racing. The Axeon family faced a lot of tragedies and triumphs in the last two years, and I’m thankful to have had some amazing teammates through it all."