Q&A with Klean Team USA’s Axel Merckx – The Axeon Cycling Team

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Q&A with Klean Team USA’s Axel Merckx – The Axeon Cycling Team

The Axeon Cycling Team – Sponsored Pro Cycling Team is a UCI Continental cycling team based in the United States and is a Klean Team USA sponsored team for 2015. The program was founded in 2009 by Axel Merckx, now owner and director of the program. Axel is a world-renowned Belgian cycling champion and the son of five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx. The goal of the program is to grow and develop young riders for the professional ranks and World Tour. Amidst a schedule of rides, meals and early season planning, Axel was kind enough to sit down and answer a series of questions for us at their first team camp of the season in Agoura Hills, CA.

Q: What’s the history of Axeon Cycling Team and what’s your vision and mission for the team?
A: When we put this team together originally, we built it around Taylor Phinney. However, over the years the program really started to develop into just that, a program. We saw all of the riders growing and developing and realized that we really had something here. After that point, we focused heavily on becoming the best possible landing spot for young riders on their journey to the World Tour. We differ from many teams in that our goal/vision is not for the kids to win every race…rather to develop them and get them ready for the next level. Everything from riding, eating, and recovering all the way to marketing. We want these guys to “graduate” and be ready for whatever the next step is for each of them.

Photo courtesy of Davey Wilson
Photo courtesy of Davey Wilson


Q: How do you approach team camp and what is your goal in starting the season here in California?
A: The goals of this camp are simple. Get the team together, train, gather content, see where each rider is at currently, and have some fun. Camp is our only chance to have the whole team together, so we try and take full advantage of it. The days are packed, but we accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.


Q: What do your early season preparations look like, and how do you approach such a long season with over 80 race days, to ensure the riders are fresh, prepared and primed to be at their best?
A: We try to use camp to show them how to not only train effectively, but of course to eat, rest, and recover correctly. There is so much that goes into making a rider and we try and instill the main points in camp in order that they can stick to these processes throughout the year. The seasons are long, but that is part of the learning process. Learning how to take care of yourself and make sure you have longevity during the season and in the sport.

Photo courtesy of Davey Wilson


Photos courtesy of Davey Wilson
Photo courtesy of Davey Wilson


Q: What are your key races and how do you target these, given the challenges of travel, training, racing and staying healthy throughout the season?
A: Since we only come together for camp, we really have to stay on top of the guys and their schedules from the beginning of the year. Making sure we build each rider’s season program effectively is very important. We are a small team (10 riders with 2 club riders) and it gets challenging to schedule during the year and make sure we are setting the guys up for success. They have a full schedule with us, plus their national team racing. All of the races are of course important, but the high profile races that we have competed in in the past including: Tour of California, USA Pro Challenge, Tour of Utah, U23 Paris Roubaix, U23 Liege Bastogne Liege, Volta Alentejo and more.


Q: Tell us how proper nutrition and health plan an important role in your recipe for success?
A: As I mentioned before there is so much more to becoming a pro. Proper nutrition and health are so important. We luckily have one of the best Soigneurs in the business: Reed McCalvin. Reed helps to ensure the guys have proper nutrition and are very cognizant of everything they are putting in their body.

Axeon Cycling Team in Agoura Hills, California. Photo: Davey Wil
Photo courtesy of Davey Wilson


Q: With Klean Athlete as the official Recovery sponsor of Axeon, how important is proper recovery to the health, success and performance of your riders?
A: As a former rider, I can personally vouch for how important recovery is. If you don’t take care of your body it can drastically affect your results, your ability to race, and your overall performance. The body is such a complex thing and if you don’t take care of it properly you can find yourself quickly out of the sport.


Q: What are the biggest challenges for proper recovery for your athletes and how do you try to mitigate those throughout the season?
A: One of the biggest challenges for us is not being with the kids all year. We like to instill the important points of health and recovery early in the hopes that it will stick with the kids during the season. We can’t be there to babysit them, so it’s extremely challenging to make sure they continue to take care of themselves properly. Luckily the guys have great individual coaches in addition to our staff to help ensure they are training and recovering correctly.

For more information on the Axeon Cycling Team and to follow them this season please visit www.axeoncycling.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photos courtesy of Davey Wilson. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.


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