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by Mark Zalewski
March 9, 2017
In today’s CyclingTips Daily News Digest: Alaphilippe wins Paris-Nice time trial, takes over lead; BMC wins Tirreno-Adriatico TTT opener; Q&A with Axel Merckx: Team’s exclusion from California is ‘unfortunate for development of US cycling’; Froome declines to support Brailsford; Three Sky riders break front wheels in Tirreno-Adriatico TTT, dashing GC plans; Sagan shows up at Tirreno-Adriatico with thumb wrapped; Groenewegen upset over Paris-Nice performance; Gent-Wevelgem to honour Antoine Demoitié; Christian Prudhomme: ASO backs the MPCC; Video shows baggage handlers tossing bike cases from EasyJet plane; 2017 Paris-Nice: Stage 4 highlights; 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico stage 1 highlights; The Pioneer 2017 highlights.
During his 15-year professional career, Axel Merckx experienced cycling’s disappointments as much as any rider. But as a team owner and director, he says he’s now facing his biggest setback. Merckx, in his ninth season as owner and director of Axeon Hagens Berman, was recently informed by Amgen Tour of California organizers AEG that his squad wasn’t selected to compete in this year’s race. The team announcement is scheduled later this week.
The May 14-20 event will be the first in 12 editions as a UCI WorldTour race, meaning fewer Pro Continental squads — and potentially no Continental squads — will attend.
Axeon Hagen Berman, under current and former title sponsors, has participated the past five years. American Neilson Powless — an emerging star from Roseville, a neighboring city to this year’s start in Sacramento — finished ninth overall last year after starting the final stage in fifth; he also claimed the best young rider classification. The team finished ninth among 17 squads, and two of its sponsors, Specialized and California Giant, are based in California.
“It was a hard blow for us,” Merckx told CyclingTips. “It’s tough; it’s not easy to face that. It is what it is, I guess. I tried to ask for the reason. The only answer I was given is that it was a tough decision, but they didn’t tell me the basis of the decision.”
“The sad part is that is that this is one year where we had a really good shot as a whole team for the overall — and for the future of cycling in the U.S.” he said. “I know we have two of the biggest talents the U.S. has ever produced with (Adrien) Costa and (Neilson) Powless. To deny that to the fans, and to us, and to those guys? It’s denying an opportunity to prove themselves at such as young age. It’s very unfortunate for the development for the future of cycling in the U.S., really.”
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