Bissell has signed on as the 2014 title sponsor of the new Axel Merckx U23 development team. Merckx, the team’s director and owner, said the team – formerly known as the Bontrager Pro Cycling Team – will continue as the top U.S. development squad. The original iteration of the development team was created in 2009 under the name Trek-Livestrong with the vision and mission to develop the next generation of elite cyclists. Trek and Bontrager have also agreed to extend its partnership as equipment supplier to the team as well as SRAM and Honey Stinger.
"We have always felt that working with Axel’s development team is one of the most exciting projects we're involved with,” said Trek VP Joe Vadeboncoeur. "Trek's new WorldTour team license prohibits us from continuing as the title sponsor of the Bontrager U23 development program, as UCI rules would disqualify the team from participating in the biggest races, where they receive the best experience. We are really excited to continue to support Axel's efforts to develop world-class riders ready to compete at the highest level."
Fourteen riders have advanced to the UCI WorldTour ranks to date, including: Olympian and five-time world champion Taylor Phinney, former American champion Ben King, British national time trial champion Alex Dowsett, George Bennett, Ian Boswell, Joe Dombrowski, Jesse Sergent, and more. The Merckx U23 program has sent a steady stream of riders to 8 different UCI WorldTour squads. This year’s team had three riders graduate to the WorldTour ranks with Lawson Craddock, Nathan Brown, and Jasper Stuyven.