The junior and U23 Euro racing trips are the key to American rider development. Even though US based racing is excellent racing, with a lot of quality races and riders, gong to Europe is more than learning to ride. It is about overall development as riders and as people. Young riders will learn how to be professional riders step by step instead of being thrown into the "deep end" as older riders. In order to race effectively, a rider needs to learn to take baby steps as a junior, progressing slowly in difficulty and distance and time spent away from home. It takes a special rider to just go to Europe and race and live full time and not be snagged by the normal pitfalls that can hold a rider back from reaching their potential; pitfalls like homesickness, physical sickness, loneliness and depression. These are normal and every American rider fights these obstacles if they choose to race at the highest level. In addition, again recognizing that American has great races, not many European team know American racing. That makes it difficult for those team to judge if a riders has the skills to move to the next level. The only way for American riders to show the European team they can compete, are worth the investment, is to go and race in front of them. And be assured it is an investment on every level that will be based on sound business decisions.
USA Cycling has created programs that assume all the costs to take riders to Europe. Cost that can reach $30,000 per rider per year. They have the infrastructure. They have the contacts and they have the 15 year track record of competing on the European Continent. How many American pro or amateur team can say they invest that kind of money in a single rider for such an extended period of time. Considering the cost for an American rider to travel to even a medium size regional race, the cost to participate in the USA Cycling programs is significantly less...for some that cost is 0 for races that are bigger and better at every level.
If a riders earns his or her way into the 15-16 program and progresses all the way through the U23 program, then that rider will have almost 10 years of racing on the same roads and races that the biggest European pros do. That is huge and levels the playing field significantly. That can easily close the gap from making it to not making it.