The Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team gets its domestic racing calendar underway Friday with the first event on USA Cycling's new American Road Calendar, the San Dimas Stage Race.
Already winners of three races on the road this season, the three-day, three-stage race in San Dimas, California, will be Axeon Hagens Berman's first competition as a team in its home country.
It will also be the first races for reigning U.S. Under 23 national road and time trial champion Geoffrey Curran. The 21-year-old Tustin, California, resident is beginning his fourth season with Axel Merckx's world-renowned cycling development program.
"The most challenging part of San Dimas is remembering how to race," Curran said. "It is not too long, both in number of days or in total hours, but you have to figure out how to work with your teammates again and execute throughout the race. It is a great race to get things moving into the season while having some shots at the stages and the overall."
Joining Curran on the seven-man roster are Americans Edward Anderson, Christopher Blevins, Jonny Brown and Chad Young. Rui Oliveira of Portugal and Michael Rice of Australia — both of whom have already raced in their home countries this year – round out the line-up.
Rice said he is excited to get rolling.
"It is going to be a great opportunity to race together as a team outfit," he said. "Following a long and successful pre-season, I am confident that as a team we can have a really positive impact on the race. Personally, I am hoping to make the most of the racing opportunity, following on from some local events and the Oceania Championships earlier this month. It will be great to test my form and look to get on the podium."
Racing gets underway Friday with a twisting, 4.25-mile hill climb, followed by an 84-mile road race on a laps of a seven-mile circuit on Saturday. Sunday's final stage is an 85-minute, six-corner criterium in Downtown San Dimas.
Download the official San Dimas Stage Race information sheet (PDF with bios, statistics, etc.): http://bit.ly/2mxhloe
Several other riders on Axeon Hagens Berman will be competing Sunday at the Under 23 edition of Gent-Wevelgem, but with their national teams.
Ian Garrison, Logan Owen and Neilson Powless will be competing for the USA Cycling Under 23 squad in the Belgian race, along with Sean Bennett, Curtis White and Zeke Mostov. A fourth Axeon Hagens Berman rider, Irish Under 23 national time trial champion Eddie Dunbar, will be representing Ireland in the 186-kilometer race.
For Garrison, it will be his first race in the Under 23 ranks after earning a bronze medal as a junior in the world time trial championships last fall.
"This year has been about increasing the volume, but carefully, and in the healthiest way possible," he said. "I have accomplished my goal in that this has been my biggest year yet, but I am healthy and responding to the training well. All is going to plan, I am happy with where I am at and really just enjoying riding my bike."
So what does the 18-year-old from Decatur, Georgia, know about the one-day Nations Cup race?
"I know that it is a hard race that plays out differently every year," he said. "But it is very likely that the race will split into many groups, especially once we hit the circuit. I am looking forward to this race because it is classic-style and that is a favorite of mine. It will be my first big race as a U23 but I am confident in the abilities of myself and especially our team. I know we have the strength to pull off a strong result in this race and I am excited to be a part of that, no matter what role I play."
Header photo of Geoffrey Curran by Davey Wilson.