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Team NetApp is preparing for next year after an excellent 2012 season. The German-based team, which has merged with Team Endura Racing for next year, has already secured its 2013 UCI Professional Continental licence, and is looking to achieving bigger and better things.
Team NetApp did not win a race in its first year as a Professional Continental team in 2010, but the drought ended in March this year. The team won the opening team time trial at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and dominated the Italian stage race, with Jan Barta taking the overall title. The team went on to take 11 wins on the season, four of them with Barta.
That race “was a huge surprise for me,” said team manager and former pro Jens Heppner on the team's website.
"Because we work almost daily with the riders, and drawing from our experience, we know how much we can expect from the younger members of the team. It’s great when they then surprise us with immense motivation and a perfect team performance. This shows us that our work over the last few years has been worthwhile.”
The season was a huge step forward for Barta, not only for his victories and his seventh place in the World time trial championships, but also his second place on the the first mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia to Cervinia.
There will be some major changes in the team for 2013, with eight riders from Endura Racing bolstering the ranks. The two NetApp sprinters, Daniel Schorn and Blaz Jarc will be joined by Russel Downing, Johnny McEvoy and Ralf Matzka.
“That doesn’t mean we’re now a sprinter team, though.” said assistant manager Enrico Poitschke. “We aim to pursue two directions in the team. Firstly we have what we call a 'classics group', then there’ll also be a 'tour group' which we have clearly improved on.”
The team expects significant changes in performance on the climbs. Leo König “was able to ride in a good position, but he was often having to fend for himself. We have thus been focusing on getting more mountain riders in the team,” like Endura's Carmano Ortuzar and David de la Cruz, coming over from Caja Rural," Poitschke said.
Poitschke doesn't anticipate any problem in combining the largely-English speaking riders from Endura with the more nationality-mixed group at NetApp, nor with combining the Classics and stage race groups.
“From my own experience, I can say that the process of a team coming together tends to occur in an entirely natural way. The shift in thought occurs almost as soon as the team put on their new racing strip.By the first day of racing at the very latest, there will only be one team as far as the riders are concerned,” he said.
The new team will hold its first training camp in December.
NetApp surprised many by securing a wild-card invitation to the Giro d'Italia. There is no word yet on another invitation for 2013 but Heppner said the team has always been able to put together “an outstanding race calendar.”
His goals for this year are “a stage win at one of the big tours or a top ten placing at one of the classics.”