Weekend Notes And Quotes 05.30.16

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By Sean Weide
30 May 16

An update on what is happening with the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team following the weekend of May 28-29.

'Thank you for making this dream a reality'

Greg Daniel is still re-living the greatest moment of his young career, two days after soloing to win the USA Cycling Volkswagen Professional Road National Championship in his home state of North Carolina.

"Thank you to everyone for making this dream a reality," Daniel wrote on his Facebook page. "I still cannot believe it. #blessed"

On Sunday, the 21-year-old flew back to his training base in Englewood, Colorado. There, he had time to reflect on Saturday's accomplishment.

"I want to say thank you to Axeon Hagens Berman staff and riders for the support, to USA Cycling for the opportunity to develop and to race in Europe over the years, and to all of my friends and family back home for believing in me. I also want to thank my coach, Jim Lehman out of Carmichael Training Systems. I cannot do it without all of you and I am truly blessed to have you all in my life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!"

Teammate Logan Owen, who finished eighth himself in the national championship race, also posted to his Facebook page: "Beyond stoked for newly-crowned national champ Greg Daniel!! We started the race with only two guys and we both finished in the top 10! Just an amazing day all around!"

Waking up to the news

When Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team General Manager Axel Merckx woke up to dozens of messages on his phone Sunday morning, he knew either something very good - or very bad - had happened.

Merckx was in France, getting ready to direct the riders who would be competing in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs. With an early start to Sunday's race and a six-hour time difference to the race in the U.S., he went to bed before the finish of the USA Cycling Volkswagen Professional Road National Championship.

"My phone was off so when I woke up and switched it on, I had more than 60 emails show up," Merckx said.

"We all know how strong Greg is and we all know the potential he has to do some great things," Merckx said. "At the same time, the fact that he was able to pull it off like that is unbelievable. He has been with us for four years now. Who would have through that four years ago he would end up like this? It is amazing."

The entire replay of the race is available at http://ultrasport.tv/uspro. Skip to 8:59:45 to watch the start of the final lap.

'Gnarly' version of Paris-Roubaix Espoirs

Justin Oien is certainly no stranger to the smaller version of the world's most famous cobblestone race.

Two years ago, he finished 75th in his first appearance in Paris-Roubaix Espoirs. Last year, he did not finish the more than 180-kilometer race. In the junior edition in 2013, he was 10th.

Not long after the start to Saturday's race, Oien and teammate Phil O'Donnell were part of a 15-man breakaway. Like the peloton behind them, they had to skirt their way across more than 20 sections of cobblestones - most of them slickened by rain and mud.

"There was standing water in some spots and lots of mud," Oien said.

Oien and O'Donnell's escape group began to shrink as the finish neared. But just then, a third Axeon Hagens Berman teammate, Latvian Under 23 national road champion Krists Neilands, bridged up to join them.

"It was really good we had the numbers and strength," Oien said. "Immediately as Krists made contact, he was attacking and putting pressure on people. It was great situation. But great situations can turn not-so-great pretty fast."

"We hit the last gnarly pavé section, Carrefour de l'Arbre, with three guys. Somewhere along there in one of the muddy sections, some riders fell in front of Phil. He couldn't stop because wet, muddy cobbles are like ice. So he fell. Then a few kilometers later, Krists's front wheel fell off the road where the pavement had started to crumble. I did my best to just follow before the eventual winner went with about five kilometers to go.

"My group got organized and we rolled into the velodrome and completed one lap and we were going into our second. But the group that was behind us came in and I got pushed off the track into the gravel infield. I had to bunny hop back onto the velodrome and sprint. I lost a few spots but I didn't go down, so that was great."

What a month it has been

The Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team definitely made the most of the month of May.

Adrien Costa got it started when he became the first American to win Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste in its 50-year history while racing for USA Cycling's Under 23 squad. The 18-year-old from Bend, Oregon, impressively soloed to win the race's queen stage, then nursed an eight-second lead the next three days.

A week later, Tao Geoghegan Hart finished third in the Gila Monster Road Race and sixth overall at the Tour of the Gila to claim "best young rider" honors. The 21-year-old from Great Britain matched his best overall finish in a stage race this year and bettered his eighth-place result at the race a year ago.

In the team's primary goal race of the year, the Amgen Tour of California, Axeon Hagens Berman turned heads throughout the eight-day race. Neilson Powless won "best young rider" honors for his ninth-place finish overall, Will Barta and Greg Daniel each wore the "most courageous rider" jersey for one day and the team compiled four top 10 finishes while placing runner-up in the team classification.

The final weekend of the month was equally as remarkable. Greg Daniel won the national road title (helped by Logan Owen, who finished eighth himself). Eddie Dunbar made an impressive return to racing after breaking his collarbone last month by winning the penultimate stage of An Post Rás (while competing for the Irish national team). And in France, Justin Oien scored a sixth-place finish in the prestigious one-day cobbled classic, Paris-Roubaix Espoirs.

(Photo of Justin Oien at Paris-Roubaix Espoirs by Joyce Jason Ghijs.)

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