Wegelius to bolster UnitedHealthcare's climbing stocks

American outfit UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis has signed British rider Charles Wegelius for the 2011 season. The 32-year-old has spent the last two seasons as a domestique at Omega Pharma-Lotto, but is expected to play a larger role at UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis as the squad expands its program into Europe.

“I’m looking forward to being part of a new project and hoping to help the younger riders in the team develop and improve,” said Wegelius. “I’m also hoping that the experience will be something new and exciting for me after many years racing a very traditional calendar of events.

“I hope to be a part of the team growing and expanding over the coming years, and that is big motivation for me,” he added.

UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis team director Mike Tamayo hopes Wegelius’ extensive experience will benefit the squad’s younger riders as they’re exposed to European racing next season. Wegelius has spent 10 years competing in Europe after turning professional with Mapei-QuickStep in 2000. The Finland-born rider has also ridden for De Nardi and Liquigas throughout his extensive career.

“Much like Robert Förster will be for our sprinters, Charly brings a wealth of experience and confidence to our stage race squad,” said Tamayo. “He’s raced most of his career at the ProTour level, and he’s done pretty much every race that we expect to do in Europe. Plus he’s started over a dozen Grand Tours, including all three in 2009.

“When we get to the high mountains, we expect him to be able to lead by example, whether it’s in European races, or big races in the U.S. like the Amgen Tour of California, the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah or the new Quiznos Challenge in Colorado,” Tamayo added. “His experience with positioning for climbs and initiating or following moves will be particularly beneficial for our younger climbers like Max Jenkins and Chris Jones.”

Wegelius is the fourth ProTour rider to join Tamayo’s squad, which is aiming for Professional Continental status, for 2011. He follows Robert Förster (Milram Pro Tour), Christian Meier (Garmin-Transitions Pro Tour) and Boy Van Poppel (Rabobank), while the team’s other new signings include Davide Frattini (Team Type 1), Chris Jones (Team Type 1) and Scott Zwizanski (Kelly Benefit Strategies).

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