Axel Merckx ‘still working hard’ to achieve million dollar budget for new Bissell development team
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Axel Merckx ‘still working hard’ to achieve million dollar budget for new Bissell development team

by Shane Stokes at 7:30 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Trek changes involvement in Bontrager team, current Bissell Pro Team stops

BissellAxel Merckx has spoken about the future of the current Bontrager team, saying that riding the top US events are one of the strengths of the squad and that he is confident that the platform will enable the squad to have a very solid budget and a successful campaign next season.

The Belgian will take over ownership of the team which was, when founded as Trek Livestrong in 2009, owned by Lance Armstrong. His lifetime ban saw him rescind his role with the team and, after being backed by Trek subsidiary Bontrager for the past two years, the squad will now become Merckx’s.

“The team will have the same goal as the former Bontrager Team had, which is developing riders and help them get to the next level,” the former pro told VeloNation on Wednesday. “We want to expose young talent to WorldTour teams and give them experience they can't get with any other development programs.

“Being able to race Amgen Tour of California, Tour Of Utah, the US Pro Cycling Challenge and the Tour of Alberta is a unique value for a U23 program.

“We are trying to get to a million dollar budget but we are not there yet. We are still working hard on that.”

The team has helped some of the world’s most promising riders to the next stage of their careers, including top US time trialist Taylor Phinney, the promising climbers Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell, George Bennett, Jesse Sergent past US champion Ben King and Alex Dowsett, the current British TT champion.

A total of fourteen riders have stepped up to the WorldTour level and more will join them next season.

This year’s team had three riders graduate to the WorldTour ranks with Lawson Craddock, Nathan Brown, and Jasper Stuyven

Trek will take over the WorldTour licence of the current RadioShack Leopard team next year and due to UCI rules limiting the appearance of linked teams and sponsors in the same races, the company said that it has to take a step back.

As a result Bontrager and Trek will become technical partners, something that Trek’s vice president Joe Vadeboncoeur has said is necessary.

“We have always felt that working with Axel’s development team is one of the most exciting projects we're involved with,” he said in a statement released announcing the changes. “Trek's new WorldTour team license prohibits us from continuing as the title sponsor of the Bontrager U23 development program, as UCI rules would disqualify the team from participating in the biggest races, where they receive the best experience.

“We are really excited to continue to support Axel's efforts to develop world-class riders ready to compete at the highest level.”

Asked about the likely lineup for next year, Merckx said that he isn’t in a position to give many details now.

“All I can tell you about riders is that we will have a young squad with Tanner Putt, the USA U23 champion. I will announce a roster when it is finalized,” he told VeloNation.

“Glen Mitchell, Omer Kem and myself have been working closely already and will continue to do so.
It is a one year term.”

Bissell announced its title sponsorship of the squad without stating that would happen to the current Bissell Pro Cycling team. In a statement on the latter squad’s website, it quoted Merckx as praising the sponsoring company’s chairman and CEO Mark Bissell.

He said that “his passion for the sport will be instrumental in allowing the team to continue its mission: preparing talented young riders for the WorldTour and Pro Continental pelotons.”

Unfortunately it means that the current setup will stop. This year the team had an impressive showing, including Phil Gaimon’s won on a stage of the Cascade Classic plus second overall in the Tour of the Gila, and the King of the Mountains victories of Carter Jones (Tour of California), Pat McCarty (Tour de Beauce) and Michael Torckler (Tour of Utah).

According to team spokesperson Beth Skau, the emphasis will now be on the under 23 development team run by Merckx. “Bissell Homecare is transitioning its sponsorship into a new U23 team, the Bissell Cycling Team,” she told Velonation.

“2013 will mark the final season of the Bissell Pro Cycling squad which began in 2008. The new team which is owned and managed by Axel Merckx takes Bissell back to its roots in developing the future of the sport.”

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