The kids are all right. Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali aren’t hanging up their cleats anytime soon, but this year made it clear that pro cycling’s biggest trend is youth.
Hadn’t noticed? Here are some examples. At the beginning of the 2019 Tour de France, the average age of the race’s 61 previous winners stood at 28.5 years. But when Team Ineos’ Egan Bernal crossed the line in Paris three weeks later, he was only 22. Movistar’s Richard Carapaz had only turned 26 four days before he pulled on the final Maglia Rosa of this year’s Giro d’Italia, and despite being just 20, Tadej Pogačar won three stages and finished on the podium at the Vuelta. Remco Evenepoel is only 19 and is already beating superstars like Greg Van Avermaet at major events, so the whole cycling world is watching to see what he does next. Likewise for Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel.
The Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team is at the forefront of that transformation, giving young riders the education and experience they need to step up and excel at the very highest levels of the sport. Founded in 2009 by Axel Merckx, it is arguably the best in the business. Which is hardly surprising, because Axel is the son of the GOAT, Eddy Merckx, and he raced professionally in his own right for 14 years, with wins at the Giro d’Italia and Critérium du Dauphiné, as well as a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics road race to show for it.
To date, they have sent 31 riders into the World Tour ranks thanks to a unique racing program that exposes the team to the best races in Europe and America and a supportive atmosphere that puts an emphasis on personal as well as professional development.
Looking back just a couple of seasons, eight of the 2017 roster are now on World Tour teams – that’s half of the 16-man team. The year before, they had 84 podium finishes and 14 wins around the world, including three GC titles and eight national championships. High-profile alumni of the project include Alex Dowsett, who set a new Hour Record in 2015, and grand tour stage winners such as Taylor Phinney and Ben King.
It’s an impressive legacy, but Axel and his crew have no plans to slow down anytime soon and remain committed to nurturing the next great generation of riders, which doesn’t come cheap. They’re lucky to have generous support from title sponsors Hagens Berman, a Seattle law firm, and Neon Adventures, an investment firm based in London. And hopefully, now the inGamba family can help out too.
Our founder João has worked closely with Axel for years, representing several of the team’s brightest young talents through his agency, Corso Sports Marketing. So we hatched a plan to support the team and create a totally unique, totally awesome trip in the process. Later this year, Axel and Eddy will come ride with us on a special edition of our Alentejo, Portugal package, giving a few lucky people the chance to ride and chat with two legends of the sport while at the same time helping out a talented bunch of kids. Oh, and we promise you’ll have a lot of fun while doing it. So if that sounds like something you’re into, find out more about the trip here or get in touch with us directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.