EF Education First-Drapac have announced the signing of former Ecuadorian time trial champion Jonathan Caicedo for 2019.
Caicedo currently rides for the Medellin Continental team – the same outfit as former Kelme, Phonak and T-Mobile rider Oscar Sevilla, who is still racing at almost 42 years old.
Caicedo, 25, became the national TT champion in 2015, and was third in the national road race the same season. However, 2018 has been a true breakout year for the Ecuadorian, who finished second overall at the Vuelta Asturias stage race in Spain behind compatriot Richard Carapaz (Movistar) in April, with second place on the two opening stages as well as taking the points title.
He then went on to finish third overall at the Vuelta Ciclista Comunidad de Madrid the following week, and last month won the Vuelta a Colombia overall, which is what piqued EF-Drapac team manager Jonathan Vaughters' interest even further, having already made it onto the American team's radar after Asturias.
"Caicedo is our wild card bet," said Vaughters in a team press release. "I started observing him after his breakthrough result at the Vuelta Asturias. He got second to Richard Carapaz, who went on to finish in fourth place at the Giro d'Italia [in May].
"That's the result that caught my attention. Caicedo's win at the Vuelta Colombia – while not a UCI race anymore, but still every bit as hard – sealed the deal for me. He knows how to win a race at high altitude, low altitude. The harder, the better."
So impressed is Vaughters with Caicedo, in fact, that the Ecuadorian could be in line for his first Grand Tour as soon as next season.
"It's likely he'll race the Giro or the Vuelta a España," Vaughters said. "He'll probably start his season at Oro y Paz and work towards the Giro. That would be my guess. He's a good time triallist, and he's a good climber. He has a fair little sprint on him, too. I think he's a guy for riding general classification in mountainous stage races."
"We have a really great reputation in South America," said Vaughters. "We have guys from South America that want to come to our team, and we're happy to give the guys that really enjoy our team spirit an opportunity to be a part of it.
"I don't know much about Ecuadorian cycling," admitted Vaughters. "Carapaz recommended him and called himself Caicedo's biggest fan. They grew up racing together."
Caicedo is thrilled to be making the move to WorldTour level, but is unlikely to let the step-up go to his head.
"This is a new stage in my sporting life," he said. "I have to thank EF Education First-Drapac for the opportunity they have provided. This is the most important step I have made professionally.
"I want my new EF co-workers to know that I'm proud to be a part of something bigger than a cycling team," continued Caicedo. "I'm focused on the bike. Away from the bike, I'm like anyone else with hopes and dreams. I'm sociable with people, and I hope I'm recognised as a humble person."