Axeon Hagens Berman Ready For Paris-Roubaix Espoirs

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By Sean Weide
27 May 16

The Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team revealed its roster Friday for Paris-Roubaix Espoirs, one of the most prestigious one-day races on the team's calendar.

Sunday's race of more than 170 kilometers from Peronne, France, to the Roubaix velodrome traverses a number of cobblestone sections - just as its professional counterpart race.

"The main difference is the distance and also the fact that it is a team of six riders compared to eight for the WorldTour race," Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team General Manager Axel Merckx said. "That means it is harder to correct a mistake and more valuable to have a compact and tight team at the start."

Merckx said the team goes in without a definitive protected rider, as is usual for the American Under 23 development squad.

"But that doesn't mean we are going in without ambition," Merckx said. "To be successful in Roubaix you do need luck. But more importantly, you need power in the legs with a good sense of the race. Any move can be the decisive one, like we have seen in the past."

The Axeon program scored back-to-back wins at the race in its first two seasons, 2009 and 2010, both by Taylor Phinney.

Axeon Hagens Berman's roster includes 2014 Paris-Roubaix Espoirs runner-up Tyler Williams, who said the race is completely unlike any other the team will do.

"There are so many variables that are involved in the day, which makes it extra difficult - but equally that much more special of a day," Williams said. "The year I was second here, I found myself in this race and discovered that it is well-suited to me. But even if you are strong, you must be in a position to use that strength. That is the difficult part.

"But we have a deep team here. So we will work together and hopefully at the end of the day we will be in a good position to go for the victory."

Joining Williams - who is in his first year with Axeon Hagens Berman - is a host of formidable talent.

Adrien Costa became the first American to win the Tour de Bretagne earlier this month and captured the king of the mountains classification at the Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour. He was also best young rider and fifth overall at Le Triptyque des Monts et Château.

Trofeo Piva winner Tao Geoghegan Hart is coming off a career-best 12th-place finish at the Amgen Tour of California. He was also the best young rider and sixth overall earlier this month at the Tour of the Gila. Latvian Under 23 national road champion Krists Neilands also competed in California and was third on a stage of the Carpathian Couriers Race, also this month.

Phil O'Donnell and Justin Oien round out the squad. O'Donnell was the top American finisher at Paris-Arras Tour this month while Oien helped win the team title at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in April.

Paris-Roubaix Espoirs (May 29):

Riders: Adrien Costa (USA), Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR), Krists Neilands (LAT), Phil O'Donnell (USA), Justin Oien (USA), Tyler Williams (USA). Sport Director: Axel Merckx (BEL).

(Photo of Tyler Williams by Davey Wilson.)

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