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"We're on the way back up," says team owner Ralph Denk
The NetApp-Endura team will announce a new five-year title sponsor on Tuesday, during the first rest day of the Tour de France. Team owner Ralph Denk is convinced that Germany is about to return as a major cycling nation in the professional peloton.
Denk remained tight-lipped about the name of his sponsor and if he would apply for a place in the 2015 WorldTour but he has already revealed that it will be a German company with interests in Europe and the rest of the world.
"We're on the way back up, that's for sure. We're past the lowest point in the crisis in German cycling," Denk told a small group of journalists at the Tour de France.
"How far we can go up perhaps depends if we have a German GC rider. Germany isn’t a cycling country like Belgium, France, Italy or Spain. German cycling fans look more to the GC of the Tour de France than anything else,"
"The goal of our new sponsor is to create an international team. We've got a German sponsor coming on board tomorrow and for sure the focus is more on Germany but it's an international company, with important markets inside and outside of Europe. It's not like the Milam team that had products that were only sold in Germany and so the team was 90 per cent German. Our strategy is different. Of course we will try to bring more German riders into the team in the future."
UCI President Brian Cookson recently told Cyclingnews that professional cycling would suffer if it is not in Germany, the biggest economy in Europe. However, like Denk, he is optimistic on one condition: "We don’t descend into the problems of the past, I'm optimistic that cycling can be strong again there and in other countries.”
The past problems of German cycling are linked to the doping scandals of the last two decades. The German public, led by the German media, turned their backs on professional cycling after the doping scandals and revelations about Jan Ullrich and T-Mobile team era.
Denk hopes his German-sponsored team can play a vital role in the rebirth of German cycling.
"I think there's some positive signal from the print media, they have covered cycling much more than five years ago and we hope that the most important German television broadcasters come on board as well. Then I'll be optimistic that cycling has a great future in Germany," he said.
"There's more interest in sponsoring cycling in Germany but football takes away a lot of sponsorship money from every sport, not only cycling. That will be even more so now Germany has won the World Cup. We have to fight with them but I've got a feeling that cycling sponsorship in Germany is growing and I hope that other brands invest in cycling and come onboard."
Denk revealed that his new team will have a clear, fixed development programme with the sponsor but would not give further details.
"We'll say more tomorrow," he said, happy to have secured the future of his team and perhaps the future of German cycling.