Sport director Axel Merckx gets ready to go. Helmet? Check. Glasses? Check. Trek-Livestrong riders? Check.
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Says U23 team has no allegiance to RadioShack-Nissan
Team director Axel Merckx rejected the idea Thursday that his Bontrager-Livestrong team would be working for the interests of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek at this year’s Amgen Tour of California, saying the U23 development team had done everything it could to become independent, and would be focused on its own ambitions during the May 13-20 tour.
Race organiser AEG’s decision to invite Bontrager-Livestrong to this year’s race raised some eyebrows among people wondering if remaining allegiances to the RadioShack squad, its former WorldTour parent team, would give defending champion Chris Horner a leg up by essentially putting two teams in his corner.
Despite having taken steps to legally separate itself from Radioshack-Nissan this season after that team merged with Leopard-Trek, questions remained about the young American squad’s allegiance to the Luxembourg WorldTour team’s remaining RadioShack staff or to riders like Horner and former Livestrong teammate Ben King.
“I don’t know what more we can do and say,” Merckx said from Belgium, where he’s preparing half the Bontrager-Livestrong team for the Tour of Normandy in France March 19-25. “But you know what, the facts will be the facts, and let’s just wait for the race and I’ll show everybody that they’re wrong. We took a different path this year, and RadioShack took a different path by developing a Continental team in Luxembourg, which is totally fine. We’re competitors. The only thing we have in common is that we ride Trek bikes.”
Merckx likened the current relationship with his former parent team to that of many others in the peloton between past teammates and staff who now ride or work for different organizations.
“I have as many friends on QuickStep as I have with the RadioShack people,” he said. “I’ve raced with those teams. I’ve raced 14 years. It’s normal that I have friends in the peloton, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to help them out in the race. I am the director of the Bontrager-Livestrong team,
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