The name of Czech rider Jan Barta may not ring any bells for a lot of cycling fans, but this could soon change. The NetApp rider has just scored his third win of the season by taking a cold and wet Rund um Köln on Easter Monday, following his win in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali final time trial and his subsequent overall victory at the Italian stage race.
In an outstanding effort, the 27-year-old Barta broke away from the lead group 40 kilometres from the finish and soloed to the victory. As a time trial specialist, he was happy that his strategy paid off. "When you are alone against the clock, everything depends on you and on nothing else. You fight against yourself, against time, against the wind. And I like that," Barta told Velochrono.
In January, German Professional Continental squad NetApp received a wildcard invitation to the Giro d'Italia, and since then, the Czech rider hasn't stopped thinking about the Italian Grand Tour. "It's the second greatest race in the world," he noted. "Just to say that feels... special. I'm not afraid of disappointing. After the races we competed in last year, notably the Tour de Suisse, our programme has improved and our team has made progress."
Indeed, Barta and his NetApp team not only gained experience in Switzerland last year, but also at the Tour of Britain, where the Czech rider finished third in the general classification. And the team also has a point to prove at the Giro d'Italia, whose organisers preferred it to Marcel Kittel's Team Argos or even to Acqua & Sapone, which includes former Giro winners Stefano Garzelli and Danilo Di Luca.
"We were criticised a lot, especially in Italy," Barta commented. "Which is why it was important to win at Coppi e Bartali. It proved that we could do well [NetApp also won the team time trial - ed.] and that the invite was deserved."