Hagens Berman Axeon has announced its first two new additions for 2020, revealing on social media that the U23 development team has signed 21-year-old Belgian Jens Reynders and 20-year-old Australian Jarrad Drizners.
The US-based team run by Axel Merckx will move back to the Continental level next year after having spent two seasons at the Pro Conti level in order to be eligible for the Tour of California when America's premiere race jumped to the WorldTour level.
Merckx previously told Cyclingnews he doesn't believe the step back to the Continental level will have much affect on the team's calendar or riders, and it doesn't appear to have affected their recruiting so far.
Reynders, the first rider announced by the team, finished third at the U23 Gent-Wevelgem and joins Axeon from Wallonie-Bruxelles Development Team. Reynders also finished third in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs. The rider from Tongeren, Belgium, won five races in 2019, including Grand Prix de la ville de Pérenchies in Northern France, and he wore the yellow jersey at Triptyque de Ardennais for two days.
"Jens is a great rider with huge potential that could actually be a WorldTour rider already,” Merckx said in a statement released by the team. "We’re really looking forward to having him on the team next season."
Reynders said he was joining the team because he believes it is the best development team in the world.
"It is the ideal environment for me to develop myself," he said. "The program they have for me, for example, is the ideal mix between pro races and the biggest races with the U23. The pro races make you stronger and tougher. The U23 races, on the other hand, ensure that we can race to win, which is in my opinion very important for a young rider. I have a lot of faith in the team, and I'm sure that together we will have a great season ahead of us. "
True to his Belgian roots, Reynders is a Classics specialist with a fast finish at the end of a hard day, but he hopes to improve in other areas next year with his new team.
"I want to become a better time trialist and learn how I can improve my ability to successfully finish off a race," he said. "I think the team can help me to reach a higher level. I would like to ride a consistent season with some highlights; my goal is to ride some good results in the Flanders classics."
Drizners is a well-rounded rider who excels on the road and the track. The 20-year-old won the Australian U23 national criterium title and took a stage and the overall victory at Tour of King Valley. On the track, he took third place at the Hong Kong UCI World Cup Team Pursuit as well as in the Australian Elite Men’s Individual Pursuit.
"Jarrad brings a lot of potential to the team," said Hagens Berman Axeon Director Jeff Louder. "His focus has been split between road and track, and he has excelled in both. He has proven to be a strong competitor on home soil and in Europe, and I expect to see him continue his development as a fast finisher and hard man on the international stage."
Drizners said he was obviously excited to join a team he's long admired.
"Joining Hagens Berman Axeon is a very special feeling," he said. "Axeon is a team that I have looked up to over the years, so to be given the opportunity to ride for them is amazing."
Merckx's team is set to turn over as many as 11 riders from the 16-rider 2019 roster as riders age out and move up.
Five riders have already signed for new teams next year, including U23 time trial world champion Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) and Ian Garrison and Joao Almeida to Deceuninck-QuickStep. Karel Vacek will move to Team Colpack, and Maikel Zijlaard will go to SEG Racing.
Riders aging out of the program include Zeke Mostov, Michael Rice, Davis Cole, Thomas Revard, Edward Anderson and 2018 US pro champion Jonny Brown.