Slovenian Janez Brajkovic moves from Astana to US team UnitedHealthcare on a two-year deal

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Winner of the 2010 Critérium du Dauphiné, Slovenian Janez Brajkovic signed today for team UnitedHealthcare for the next two seasons, 2015 and 2016.

“I’m extremely motivated and I know we’ll have great years together,” 30-year-old Brajkovic said.

“I’m ready to lead when appropriate, and also to work for my new team as the race and situation demands it. Teamwork is a very strong component with this program and I’m looking forward to contributing to that.”

UnitedHealthcare holds a second division licence from the USA, but races around the world. In 2014, it was one of the wildcard teams in Paris-Roubaix.

Brajkovic since turning professional raced in first division teams Discovery Channel, Astana and RadioShack – all guided by the now banned manager, Johan Bruyneel. He returned to team Astana and spent the last three years in its turquoise colours.

He won a stage in the 2012 Volta a Catalunya and in August, finished third overall behind winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in the Vuelta a Burgos. However, 2014 was one of his worst years due to his crash in the Giro d’Italia‘s maxi-caduta in stage six to Montecassino. He shattered his left elbow and abandoned before the race reached the high-mountains.

Jani Brajkovic on stage one of the 2013 Tour of Spain

Jani Brajkovic on stage one of the 2013 Tour of Spain

Astana instead turned its attention to Fabio Aru, who placed third overall in the Giro, and won the Tour de France with Vincenzo Nibali. Aru returned and led the team in the Vuelta a España, where he won two stages. Brajkovic, despite his place in Burgos a week before, was not selected to race the Vuelta.

“I need to find a team where I can be myself, do the races I like, and get the results that I know I am capable of getting,” Brajkovic told VeloNews in August.

“I really miss those American races, the American mentality. I like staying in the States, doing California, Colorado, Utah. I love those races.”

UnitedHealthcare explained that his goals will be the Tour of California, the Tour of Utah and Colorado’s USA Pro Challenge stage race. It will also have him lead the team in week-long European stage races.

“Jani was looking for a team where he could be a leader and get back to his winning ways, where teamwork is a primary focus,” General Manager Mike Tamayo said. “An atmosphere in which the team will rally behind him and one that he can also give back to.

“We can provide that tight-knit community and level of support to get Jani back to a place where he is winning races. He’s a great fit for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, as a rider and a personality.”