Team Illuminate principle Chris Johnson confirmed to Cyclingnews that his US-registered team will return to the Continental level next year, and the team announced four riders that will be back for the 2017 season.
"The team will most definitely be back next year and we have some exciting stuff lined up," Johnson told Cyclingnews. "We have retained the core of our roster and have added some serious firepower."
Colombian national champion Edwin Avila will race with the team again in 2017, as will Griffin Easter, Connor McCutcheon and Cullen Easter. The rest of the roster will be announced on the team's Strava Club page.
Team Illuminate is the current incarnation of the Airgas-Safeway squad that Chris Horner raced with in 2015. Throughout the 2016 season, the team, racing in all black kit without any logos, competed sparingly in US races while traveling Tour de Taiwan, Tour d'Azerbaïdjan, Tour of Iran and Tour of Qinghai Lake.
Avila started the team's 2016 season on a high note, winning the Colombian championships in front of a slew of WorldTour riders. McCutcheon took the team's next victory, winning stage 1 of the Tour of Iran and wearing the leader's jersey for a day. But the team also had riders do well with their national teams, including medals on the track at both the World Championships and Olympics.
For Johnson, the biggest result came in Iran with McCutcheon, who has been with the team since 2014.
"There were bigger results, but Connor winning Stage 1 at the Tour of Iran and wearing the yellow jersey definitely stands out to me personally as a highlight," he said. "I have been working with him now for three years, so to see him achieve that meant a lot."
In 2016, the team will target invitations to the big North American races, especially the Tour of Utah and Tour of Colorado.
"I know individually the riders are looking to target certain events, but securing those invitations are one of the top priorities for me," Johnson said. "While we did a lot of racing overseas this past year, I would love to see the team get a chance to do the run of races next summer in the US. That would be Cascade, Utah, Colorado, Virginia and then Reading120. It's super exciting to see that string of races on the calendar and we're eager to take part.
"From a results standpoint, US pro road champs would be a great one to get a result at," Johnson said. "We have a smaller roster than the other US pro teams, and getting a win there would be a dream. Personally, I think we're on the brink of a big season, we have been building for a couple years now, and the experience we gained overseas this year I think will pay off next year."
The team will also continue to sport the no-corporate-logo look for next season, although the team kits will feature a new team logo and the mandated UCI logo. In previous interviews, Johnson has declined to say where the team's funding comes from, choosing instead to promote the message the lack of logos sends.
"The reason we didn't name the team after a corporate sponsor or put a company's logo across the jersey is because we're creating a team with its own identity that can exist 10-plus years from now and can build a following year after year," Johnson said.
"Our model seemed to be received well. People were always coming up to the team and commenting how much they liked the jerseys. Having no logos makes people ask questions, which is kinda the point."
Johnson said the lack of logos also inspired his riders.
"The riders realized pretty quickly that we didn't just see them as rolling billboards and I think they connected with the idea of building a team that stood for something larger," he said. "We really tried to instil in the riders that we were taking the logos off in order to create a platform that they could use to send a positive message. I think this resonated with them a lot more than having to advertise for a certain product,company that they may or may not even relate to."
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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