The UnitedHealthcare team announced the signing of New Zealand's Linda Villumsen this week. The time trial specialist and Commonwealth Games gold medalist will be a key rider in the team's goal of targeting the team time trial at the world championships in 2015.
Villumsen, 29, a consistent performer in both stage races and time trials, had four straight years of landing on the podium at Worlds but never on the top step, and after a frustrating fourth place finish at the London Olympic Games, she nearly retired from the sport. She returned, however, and won the silver medal behind Ellen van Dijk in the time trial at the Worlds in Florence last year, and won gold in the Commonwealth Games time trial in Scotland in August.
With two reinvigorating seasons at Wiggle Honda under her belt, Villumsen is ready to try something new. “Having finally made it to the top step of the podium at the Commonwealth Games, I believe the time is right to search for a new challenge to maintain this new momentum through to the Olympics in 2016. To do this, I will need focus and support through 2015 and the switch to UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, I believe, will provide this for me.
"The team is highly focused on a home World Championships in 2015 and to repay them for their support and shared vision I’d love to help them win the Team Time Trial at the championships, as well as winning the Individual title for myself. As I have signed for 2016 also I will then be able to display the World Bands on the Team’s kit in the run up to Rio.”
Villumesen plans to spend time racing in the USA with the team in addition to her focus on international competition. “I have done a few races in America, but the majority will pose new and exciting challenges and I am looking forward to be part of the lead out train on the flat as well as having GC opportunities because of my climbing and TT abilities. The team has a dynamic and refreshing approach on which I can feed and hopefully bring success to us both.”
Unitedhealthcare General Manager Mike Tamayo commented, “Linda is a phenomenal rider who has been on the verge of a world championship in multiple occasions. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team will devote their immense resources and support network to helping Linda take that last step on the podium. The addition of Villumsen to the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team bolsters our already strong roster with her immense abilities as a general classification rider, time trial specialist, and consistent all-around performer.”