Here's a quick glance at what was happening with Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team riders and staff during the weekend of April 16-17.
Phil O'Donnell might have been outnumbered Sunday at the USA Cycling Pro Criterium, but it did nothing to slow his ambitions for a strong finish.
O'Donnell was the lone rider from the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team competing in the 110-minute race through the streets of Greenville, S.C. Other teams like UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling (UHC), Rally Cycling and the Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team had four or more riders in the field. But O'Donnell was right in the mix throughout, following moves and even taking up the chase of a breakaway that threatened to go the distance at the midpoint.
"I knew if I didn’t chase that move down I would not come away with any kind of result," O'Donnell said. "I wanted to animate the race and not just be sitting in the field. I put in a good amount of moves throughout the race to try and mix it up. There was definitely a rivalry between Rally and UHC. UHC seemed keen to keep it together, but Rally spent the whole race trying to split it up. Holowesko missed a few big moves, but ultimately UHC and Rally controlled the race and were the powerhouses."
Coming into the finish, the teams with the most riders lined up on the front, with O'Donnell right behind their lead-out trains.
"I didn’t really want to wait for the sprint because it was a short distance from the last corner and I was already a little too far back for my liking," he said. "It crossed my mind several times to try and give it a go with a few laps to go, but the course was turn heavy and hard to move up on that quickly."
Ultimately, he finished eighth, in the same time as race winner Brad Huff (Rally Cycling). It was quite a jump from this time one year ago when he was competing at the Sea Otter Classic in California as a junior and winning the road race.
"Ultimately, I feel like I could have done a little better," O'Donnell said. "But I was happy with the race and I am looking forward to having a full team at the Joe Martin Stage Race to build on our success."
Axeon Hagens Berman mechanic Eric Fostvedt used to roll his eyes when the team would receive a poor position in the caravan behind the peloton. Positioning is by blind draw in one-day races and the farther back a team car is placed, the longer it takes for the car to reach a rider who might need assistance.
But this year has been decidedly different. At G.P. Palio del Recioto earlier this month, Fostvedt found himself working out of car 32 in the caravan. The result? Ruben Guerreiro won. Then on Saturday, for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Axeon car was positioned 24th of 33 cars in the caravan. The result? Another win – this time a solo performance by Logan Owen.
So what does Fostvedt think now when General Manager Axel Merckx gets a good caravan number?
"I wouldn't know," Fostvedt said, smiling. "I don't believe Axel has ever drawn that close to the front."
After a chuckle and a pause, he added. "At least not while I have been working for him. But no complaints, it's working for us."
Riding for the USA Cycling Under 23 squad at ZLM-Roompot Tour, Greg Daniel made the most of Saturday's final stage of the three-day race in The Netherlands. He launched numerous attacks during the 177.2-kilometer race before finishing 68th, in the same time as race winner Andreas Stokbro of Denmark.
"I just attacked a lot during the race and towards the end as well," Daniel said, "but luck wasn't on my side and I could not get much of a gap."
While the ultimate result was not exactly notable, his aggression during the race did earn him "most aggressive rider" honors and a place on the final podium. Daniel's Axeon Hagens Berman teammates Adrien Costa and Colin Joyce finished 12th and 14th overall, respectively, while Tyler Williams was 64th and Daniel was 66th.
Jonny Brown made the most of a breakaway Sunday afternoon at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, California.
Riding solo for Axeon Hagens Berman, the 18-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee, finished fourth after powering the escape for much of the 75-minute circuit race.
Earlier this season, Brown was runner-up at the Union City Mayor's Race in Union City, Georgia.
Axeon Hagens Berman is next in action later this week at the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The four-day race begins Thursday. Look for our roster announcement later this week.