After a year that saw them win their first Grand Tour stage, the NetApp-Endura team has put its hat in the ring for a Tour de France spot, in July.
"The Tour de France is the target we have definitively set for ourselves," said team manager Ralph Denk. "With our successes at the Vuelta a España, we showed just what potential this team has. Year by year we have set ourselves ever higher targets and have always backed this up with results."
The Pro Continental team applied for a wildcard last year, but lost out to the French teams of Europcar, Sojasun and Cofidis. With Europcar stepping up to WorldTour level and the demise Sojasun freeing up spaces, the likelihood of them claiming one of the four places seems much greater.
If they are successful in their bid, they will be the first German team to ride the Tour since 2010, in Milram’s final season. NetApp were keen to keep hold of their German licence when they merged with the British Endura team, at the beginning of last year. They are currently the only German registered team to compete in the top two tiers of cycling.
The team rode their first Grand Tour in 2011, at the Giro d'Italia without top rider Leopold König, who was missing due to illness, and struggled for a result. König made up for this and more with a stage win and ninth in the general classification. The Czech rider has been key to the team’s success over the last two years and is looking to build on that. His first big goal will be Tirreno-Adriatico in March, provided the team get a wildcard. "Tirreno–Adriatico is my kind of race," said König. "With this team behind me, I believe I can ride into the top 10 and perhaps shake things up nice and early in the season."