Beginning Tuesday, four Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team riders will compete for USA Cycling at the Tour de Bretagne. But the defending champion of the French race, Adrien Costa, is not one of them, USA Cycling Under 23 Manager Nate Wilson said.
"It was a decision he and I made together," Wilson said. "He could go there and do well, but it is not the best thing for him at the moment."
Even without Costa, Team USA has plenty of firepower to contend again for the overall, said Wilson - a rider himself on Axel Merckx's development team in 2013.
"We certainly have a strong line up with multiple riders who can hope to contest for the win," Wilson said. "Some may look at this as a challenge. But as long as we play it right, it is only a strength. The key, for me, is to create an environment where one rider is just as happy to see their teammate win, as they are to see themselves. If we can use our strength collectively, we will be successful.
Wilson said Will Barta, Logan Owen and Neilson Powless are all veterans who have the capability of leading the team. Powless is coming off a win Tuesday at the one-day Italian race, G.P. Palio del Recioto. Barta finished a team-best fourth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23 last Saturday. And Owen is fully recovered from illness and injuries that slowed him after he helped win a stage and the team classification at Volta ao Alentejo. The fourth Axeon Hagens Berman rider, Ian Garrison, was runner-up in the Under 23 edition of Gent-Wevelgem. Joining them to round out the six-rider squad will be Sean Bennett and Gavin Hoover.
In his first year of directing the team, Wilson said he is satisfied with how well the squad is working together and creating a good environment. In terms of tactics, Stages 3, 6, and 7 look to be the most pivotal in terms of terrain, he said.
"However, in Bretagne, the wind blows," he said. "That means that any one stage can be decisive. Having a chaotic and unpredictable race also circles back to the benefit of having multiple riders who can handle leadership duties. We do not have to be stressed if our singular leader misses a breakaway because we can put another strong rider into the move."
Header photo of Neilson Powless (far left) at Monday's news conference. Courtesy: Tour de Bretagne.