Nielson Powless takes second win on the year for Axel Merckx's Axeon Hagens Berman team

Axeon Hagens Berman is home to some of the fiercest U23 riders in the world.

Formed in 2009 as the Trek Livestrong team and focused on developing talent from the junior ranks for the now defunct Team Radioshack, the squad has evolved into a dominating force both domestically and internationally. Alumni include Taylor Phinney, Ben King and Lawson Craddock – and now there are two more youngsters catching the eye.

Adrien Costa, 19, and Neilson Powless, 20, have seen tremendous success racing overseas this spring, most recently with Powless taking the win from a two-man breakaway at Tuesday’s G.P. Palio del Recioto (1.2U) in Verona, Italy.

“Basically, the whole team is so good,” Axeon Hagens Berman Sport Director Koos Moerenhout said after the race. “That sometimes makes the team tactics for their individual goals a bit difficult. Working for someone today means an opportunity to race for yourself to prove it tomorrow.”

Today’s win marks the sixth UCI victory of the young season for Axel’s Merckx‘s Axeon Hagens Berman and the second of the year for Powless, who won the “best young rider” at the 2016 Amgen Tour of California.

Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman) Photo: Davey Wilson

Last year, Axeon Hagens Berman’s Ruben Guerreiro also won the G.P. Palio del Recioto from a two-up sprint. That win was just the first of 2016 for the team that went on to tally 16 UCI victories.

Just yesterday, Costa and Powless snagged fifth and sixth respectively at the Giro del Belvedere (1.2U), with Powless also securing sixth at the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège and tenth at the Ronde van Vlaanderen Beloften earlier this month.

“Little test for my sprinting legs today in the bunch kick. Finished 6th on the day. 2nd from group. Not a bad way to finish off my first #LBL” Powless said on Twitter post race.

Both Costa and Powless came up through the junior ranks racing in northern California, with Powless spending some time on the mountain bike before committing to road full-time. Costa rode for the Slipstream-Craddock Junior Development squad for two years from 2012-2013 to help fast track his progression to the international stage.

After taking second in the general classification at last year’s Tour of Utah ahead of WorldTour pro Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) by 30 seconds, Costa rode as a stagiaire with Etixx-QuickStep to end his 2016 campaign.

It seems no matter where this dynamic duo heads for the future, they will continue to look to ‘prove it’ with results on European soil and hope to make the jump to the next level, joining the long lists of names to come through Merckx’s Axeon Hagens Berman program.

The team will race the GP Industria & Commercio this Sunday, April 23, and then return stateside for the Redlands Bicycle Classic from May 3-7.