Winning the PJ Logan earlier this year in front of his home crowd beating a field of elites as a junior (Photo Dany B)

Report by American reporter Chad Childers >>> Hagens Berman Axeon is thrilled to announce the signing of Darren Rafferty, a nine-time Irish National Champion across four disciplines: road race, time trial, mountain, and cyclo-cross. Rafferty joins the Axeon squad from Team31 JollyCycles U19. “I’m super excited to be making the jump up to the continental level and joining the well renowned Hagens Berman Axeon as a first-year U23,” said Darren. “I believe Axeon is the perfect team for me to progress and develop with the best atmosphere to get the most out of myself.” Darren recently finished just off the podium at the 2021 European Men’s Junior Championships in the time trial, missing a 3rd place finish by 3 seconds. He was also in 8th place at the 2019 Youth Olympics in Baku, Azerbaijan. The 18-year-old from Dungannon, Ireland considers himself strong in the individual time trial as well as hilly stage races. For 2022, Darren hopes to improve his overall cycling performance, “by perfecting all of the bike elements such as nutrition and S+C, alongside learning as much as possible from older teammates who have already experienced the U23 racing scene,” he said.

The team of 2021 on a training spin (Photo from the social media of the Axeon team)

“Darren is a young rider that has progressed very quickly through the junior ranks,” said team owner and director Axel Merckx. “He has great potential and showed it by finishing fourth at the European Junior Championships in the time trial. We’re talking about someone who wasn’t well-known a few months ago and really went for the opportunity that was presented to him. With his aggressive style of riding, he is going to be a great asset to the team and I’m really excited about him joining us next year. Darren is the second rider to join the 2022 Hagens Berman Axeon roster after Kasper Anderson, the 2020 Junior European Road Race champion joins Axeon from the Danish Continental team ColoQuick

AXEL MERCKX, Owner (above) DirectorAxel Merckx is a world-renowned retired Belgian cyclist who retired to British Columbia, Canada, in 2007. Born in 1972 in Ukkle, Belgium, he is the son of five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx. Axel himself enjoyed a stellar racing career, earning the bronze medal in the Olympic road race in 2004, winning one stage of the Giro d’Italia in 2000, the same year that he was the Belgian national road champion. He began his professional cycling career in 1993 as a member of the Motorola Cycling Team. Most recently, Axel has become synonymous with the success of the Hagens Berman Axeon Cycling Team as the squad’s director and now, owner.

Great news for any aspiring youngster…hard work and perseverance can pay off!! (Photo Martine Verfaillie Bel)

After 6 years and multiple identities, the Axeon brand was born in 2015 as a combination of Axel Merckx’s name and NEON Adventures. We’ve created a name that will endure beyond corporate sponsorships, an identity for young riders to aspire to and a team people can get behind and follow for years to come >>