Neal Rogers chats with Trek-Livestrong director Axel Merckx
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One-on-one with Trek-Livestrong's Axel Merckx
Neal Rogers: Alright, well we are here with Axel Merckx, the team director for Trek Livestrong. Axel, a year ago at this time you were sort of taking on this role as a first time team director. Can you talk a little bit about what a difference a year makes, 12 months later, and your comfort with the position and the squad?
Axel Merckx: Well, I think that’s exactly what it is. I think the comfort level is much higher. I feel more confident and I've been you know, one year as a director. At least now I know where I'm going at and especially the races. I think we had already a great amount of success with the team last year and we’re going to try to build on that to hopefully being even better this year.
Neal Rogers: Can you talk a little bit about the sort of the feeder system from the Trek Livestrong team into now Team RadioShack. We saw Bjorn Selander. He was the rider who sort of graduated up the ranks, the American rider I should say. Talk about your input on the decision making that your conversations with Johan how that takes place?
Axel Merckx: Well, that’s exactly it. We’re trying to accommodate and facilitate the transition between you know junior or early U23 ranks to the Tour of Utah team. And we’re going to try to do that every year on one, two riders. I mean the more riders that can bring up to approach for the better, it is for me. But I think you know it’s an honest conversation between me and Johan and we talk about the assets that every single rider have. And then he is looking into exactly what he is looking for at the stage of his team. And then I think we come up with a couple of names that made the most sense for next year.
Neal Rogers: And so in the conversation that you had with Johan about Bjorn Selander, what were the attributes that you told Johan that this is a rider that I think would fit on the team?
Axel Merckx: Well, I think first of all, Bjorn is a rider with a great potential. I think he has lots of margins still to grow and I think it will be great growing even more with the RadioShack team. He’s a great rider. He’s an old round rider. He can time trial. He can climb. He’s not slowing the swing so easy. He can do a bit of everything and he’s good at a bit of everything. So, he’s just a -- I think the older he is going to get, he’s going to find his comfort zone where he really is going to excel in and hopefully being a great asset for the RadioShack.
Neal Rogers: When you look back to 2009, it’s easy for an American journalist to think that Taylor Phinney won at Roubaix. It was probably the team highlight -- the highlight for you but I’ll let you answer that question. What was the highlight of 2009?
Axel Merckx: Yeah for sure, I mean it’s definitely Taylor winning in Roubaix. We were expecting Taylor to have a great race or we were hoping to have a great race. But to be able to win it, you know the first shot being one of the contenders but it’s for sure not the favorite. And the way you finish the race and the way you mastered the race and also I got to say the way that the team handled the race all day long was -- I was really proud of my team that day because we really did the perfect race and until he was able to finish in the perfect way also.
Neal Rogers: And last question, objectives for 2010; what do you hope to see this team accomplish in the next 12 months?
Axel Merckx: Well I hope to you know like being able to come back next year and say that we won Roubaix again. But you know I want to try to build a little bit more in the U.S. also to achieve a few results more in the U.S. And we’re going to go to Europe probably one more time and hopefully we have a successful campaign for the second race that we’re going to do there. And then you know if we can provide another two or three riders to the RadioShack for the year after, I think my mission will be accomplished.
Neal Rogers: In long term, are you thinking that you’d like to be directing at the ProTour level or are you pretty happy with the developmental team?
Axel Merckx: No, I'm happy in what I'm doing. I think it really suits me specially this time of life, I really like working with the old riders and try to scope and look for the young riders. And it's challenging because it was a brand new world for me especially in North America but I like it and I enjoyed and it gets me in touch with different people from all over the world that you know advice me and try to propose some riders to me for the next year. But I think for now, I think I'm pretty comfortable with what I'm doing right now.