Team NetApp “would be honoured” to ride in the Giro d'Italia, said team manager Ralph Denk. The German team was one of 14 Professional Continental teams to make the first cut for the pool of wildcard candidates for the Giro and other races organised by RCS Sports, announced Sunday.
"We are happy that we qualified and that our dossier met all requirements,” Denk told Cyclingnews. “Like the other teams we now have to wait for the commission to decide on January 10th. We would be honoured to receive a wildcard for the Giro. For sure Team NetApp would be an enrichment for the race."
An invitation to this year's Giro would suit the team perfectly for several reasons."When founding Team NetApp in 2009 our vision was to participate in a Grand Tour in our third season. That would be 2012,” Denk said.
"As soon as we learned from Michele Acquarone about his plans to consider teams who add more than a sporting value to the races we didn’t wait a second to submit our application. As a new generation team we appreciate RCS’ decision breaking with the traditional way of selecting wildcards to the Giro.”
In addition, “In 2002 our sport director Jens Heppner wore the maglia rosa for ten stages. First he took the peloton by surprise in earning the pink jersey and second by keeping it for ten days. Now ten years later he could return with a bunch of ambitious young riders desperate to prove their strengths,” Denk said.
Those young riders have taken the first steps to make a name for themselves. “Last year we proved that we are able to finish such tours as the Tour of Turkey, Tour of Austria, Tour of Poland or Tour of Britain among the top ten, and even on the podium. Now we are ready to take on larger tasks,” he told Cyclingnews.
Leopold König, 24, is one of those young riders looking to make his mark. The Czech had his international breakthrough year in 2011, finishing second overall and as best young rider at the Tour of Austria, third overall at the Tour de l'Ain, and fifth overall at the Tour of Britain. "Leo hasn’t exploited his maximum potential yet,” Denk said. “We are sure that Leo will win one of the smaller tours this year. He could finish the Giro in the top 20 – maybe better.”
The team can also boast an Italian rider with Giro experience, at least Baby Giro. Cesare Benedetti “was already leader in the Baby Giro right before he joined Team NetApp. He will for sure give everything in the Giro on home ground to fight for his dream.”
Whether or not the Giro invitation works out, the team will be concentrating more on stage races this year. “We strengthened the team with riders who are specialized in classics and sprints as well as able to support our tour riders. This way we have a wider base to support our most talented rider Leo König and our more experienced rider Bartosz Huzarski. New riders like Matthias Brändle and Reto Hollenstein will be the wingmen for Leo, Bartosz and Jan Barta or new entry Andre Schulze who will guide our young sprinters Daniel Schorn and Michael Schwarzmann.
"Our ambition this year: stepping up from podium finishes in 2011 to victories in 2012.”