Team SmartStop announced today that it has added 2014 Vuelta Mexico winner Juan Pablo Villegas to the 2015 roster. The 27-year-old Colombian, well known for his strident anti-doping stance, rode for Cafe de Colombia in 2011 and 4/27-Colombia for the past two seasons.
SmartStop director Michael Creed said he first noticed Villegas in March at the Mexican tour, where Villegas won three stages and the overall in the six-day race. Villegas won the time trial in Mexico, beating former US time trial champion Tom Zirbel (Optum). He also took a stage win over SmartStop's Jure Kocjan, who sprinted in for second.
Creed said that adding Villegas to the roster will bring significant added firepower to the 2015 team.
"He's just a badass," Creed said in a statement released with today's announcement. "He will add another element to the stage racing component of the team. He has the speed to help us in the lead outs. He can win a prologue time trial and he can hold his own in the high mountains. It is a very serendipitous signing for us and we are very lucky to have him."
Villegas, who will be racing on a US team for the first time, said he is looking forward to making his mark on the American circuit and being a part of Team SmartStop.
"I am very excited for the opportunity to race in the US with the SmartStop team, especially at such a crucial time in my career," Villegas said. "I'm looking forward to working very hard to make the most of the chance they have given me in a clean and honest manner."
Villegas is hoping for an opportunity to race in the prestigious North American stage races with the team, including the major UCI events in California, Utah, Colorado and Alberta.
"I am hoping for a good season, especially with the possibility of racing at the Tour of California and Utah. I can do great things with SmartStop, and I'm looking forward to helping get the team plenty of podiums and victories in 2015."
2015 Team SmartStop:
Zach Bell, Rob Britton, Chris Butler, Kris Dahl, Flavio De Luna, Evan Huffman, Shane Kline, Jure Kocjan, Julian Kyer, Travis Livermon, Eric Marcotte, Travis McCabe, Bobby Sweeting, Juan Pablo Villegas