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American Chris Butler joins Cycling Academy Team

The Cycling Academy Team adds three riders with WorldTour experience to its roster for the 2016 season.

Cycling Academy Team, the Continental team backed by world champion Peter Sagan in its inaugural season, is bringing some WorldTour firepower to its lineup in 2016.

Three established pros with WorldTour-level racing experience are set to join the startup squad next season. Among the bigger names confirmed are Dan Craven (Europcar), Guillaume Boivin (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies), and Chris Butler (SmartStop). Butler raced two seasons with BMC Racing and Boivin belonged to the Slipstream organization for two seasons.

Craven, a Namibian known for his trademark beard and aggressive racing style, will bring some veteran heft as the team steps up in what will be its second season in the peloton.

“Dan will be by far the oldest rider in a very young roster,” said ex-pro Niki Sorensen, who will take over as lead sport director.

“He will bring us his vast experience and knowledge of what is needed to become a successful rider,” Sorensen said. “He knows how to take his opportunities in races and how to support the team on the road with both strong riding and decision making.”

The Israeli-based team raced its inaugural season in 2015 with a limited racing calendar in Europe and Africa.

Sagan acted as an advisor for the team backed by Sagan’s manager, ex-pro Giovanni Lombardi, and former Israeli Saxo Bank rider Ran Margaliot. Sorensen, a 15-year pro who retired at the end of 2014, is taking over as lead sport director in what’s another signal of the team’s larger goals. Sagan, meanwhile, is helping to get a young team from his native Slovakia off the ground.

For 2016, the team is clearly stepping up its ambitions, with a lineup of more experienced pros and an expanded racing program that will target events in Africa, Europe, and North America.

Butler, Boivin, and Mexican climbing ace Luis Lemus (Airgas-Safeway) will give the team a heftier North American roster as it makes bids to improve its racing calendar next season.

“The team’s ambitious long-term goals align perfectly with what I also want to accomplish as a cyclist in the near future,” Butler said. “I’ve had glimmers of results in Europe before. I think with a good game plan and hard work I really want to reach what everyone believes my true potential to be.”