Belgian Semi-Classic Next For Axeon Hagens Berman

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By Sean Weide
18 Jul 16

The Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team will join three WorldTour teams and 16 other squads Wednesday for the 50th edition of the Belgian semi-classic, Grand Prix Cerami.

The team's six-rider roster includes Irish Under 23 national time trial champion Eddie Dunbar, Latvian Under 23 road and time trial national champion Krists Neilands and four Americans: Will Barta, Phil O'Donnell, Justin Oien and Tyler Williams.

Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Jeff Louder said a quality field and the 210.8-kilometer distance makes it a big race for the American Under 23 development team that recently captured eight national titles among six different riders.

"We will be facing off with a lot of the best teams in Northern Europe on a very difficult course," he said. "First and foremost, I think this race will be a great experience for the guys. A lot can happen over the course of a day in Belgium, so we will approach the race looking to be present and aggressive. Everyone is on great form after an unprecedented nationals campaign, so I think anyone has the opportunity to represent themselves and the team."

Dunbar has enjoyed a successful comeback from a broken collarbone in April. He won a stage of An Post Ras in late May go with his gold medal in the Under 23 national time trial less than a month ago.

"Training has been going well," Dunbar said. "I took an easy week after nationals as it is going to be a busy end of the season. I spent a week in Girona training hard after my break and I am looking forward to racing again in GP Cerami. I will go into it with an open mind. It is a one day race and more than 200 kilometers, so it will be a nice race to get back into the swing of things. We have a strong team lining up for it, so I am sure everyone will be motivated to do well."

Unlike Dunbar, O'Donnell will line up at Cerami for the first time. The Dahlonega, Georgia, resident finished fourth in the USA Cycling Under 23 national road race earlier this month as part of Axeon Hagens Berman's sweep of the first seven places.

"After nationals, I took some time off to enjoy being home after being in Europe for two months," O'Donnell said. "I resumed normal training last week and it has been very hot in Georgia. Being used to the European weather, it has been pretty difficult to train. But besides the heat, the training has been going well and I am excited to be back in Europe for some more racing. I am not really sure what to expect. But based on results of previous years, it looks like a very hard race. So I think taking it one step at a time and seeing how the race unfolds will be my best course of action."

Axeon Hagens Berman Grand Prix Cerami Roster:

Riders: Will Barta (USA), Eddie Dunbar (IRE), Krists Neilands (LAT), Phil O'Donnell (USA), Justin Oien (USA), Tyler Williams (USA). Sport Director: Jeff Louder (USA).

Photo of Krists Neilands at the Latvian national championships courtesy of Latvian Cycling Federation.

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