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Bewley, Sergent team up with Lance

Published: 7:09AM Monday November 10, 2008 Source: NZPA

New Zealand Olympic bronze medallists Sam Bewley and Jesse Sergent have signed with American cycling legend Lance Armstrong's big budget under-23 development team which will begin racing in the United States next year.

Under the mentor-ship of Armstrong and team director Axel Merckx, son of five times Tour de France winner Eddy, it is a golden opportunity for Bewley (Rotorua) and Sergent (Feilding) to further their careers.

But unlike Hayden Roulston, who heads shortly to Europe to resurrect his professional road racing career with the Cervelo Test team, Bewley and Sergent will not be lost to the New Zealand pursuit team.

The former junior world champions, earmarked to form the backbone of the New Zealand pursuit team to the next Olympics, will be released when they are needed to race for the country.

"This is a big thing," former New Zealand cycling coach Ron Cheatley told NZPA today.

"They are going to be rubbing shoulders with the two biggest names ever in cycling in Armstrong and Merckx.

"This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity and both boys are over the moon.

"The best thing is that we have also been able to wrap up the New Zealand track team's schedule and international commitments into their programme so there will be no disruption to the national track squad's preparations for the world championships (in March in Poland)."

Cheatley said he and New Zealand cycling team manager Craig Adair, who has close ties with Axel Merckx, saw an opportunity when Armstrong announced in September he was forming the team.

"Armstrong's team is sponsored by Trek and because I am the company's distributor in New Zealand, I was able to put forward an application to try and get maybe one or two riders on this team.

"I didn't have high expectations because you can imagine the number of applications that would have been put in.

"I put in Sam's name and followed it up with Jesse's, and much to our delight, both riders have now been signed and they will join the Trek Armstrong team from January 1."

Bewley has one year left as an under-23 while Sergent has another two.

"Bewley has a great opportunity to establish himself and with Armstrong's connections, you can imagine he's well on his way."

Bewley and Sergent are expected to head to the United States next month when the 10-strong team is officially launched.

The team leader will be American Taylor Phinney, who is earning kudos as the next big name in American cycling.

Phinney, 18, whose parents Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter, won Olympics cycling medals, took this year's world junior individual pursuit title and finished seventh in the event at the Beijing Olympics.

Armstrong, now 37, retired after winning his seventh Tour de France in 2005 but two months ago, announced his comeback to try for an eighth title.

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