Team NetApp hasn't had any wins so far this season, but “good podium placings in big races show that we belong where we are,” team manager Ralph Denk said, and declared himself “more than satisfied” with the 2011 season. He also said that Steven Cozza would be back with the team in 2012, but that Daryl Impey would not.
The team has come close to the top step of the podium a number of times, with seven second place finishes and nine third places. The lack of wins is due to “the very, very hard and big race programme,” Denk told Cyclingnews. “If we had ridden smaller races we would have done better, but we chose these to develop our young riders. I am not unsatisfied, we have seen a big step up in several of our riders.”
The team's two top riders this year have proven to be the two Czechs, Jan Barta and Leopold König. In his second year with the team, the 25-year-old Barta finished eighth overall at the Tour of Austria and third overall at the Tour of Britain. König, 24, had an outstanding second half of the season, finishing second overall at the Tour of Austria, third at the Tour de l'Ain and fifth in the Tour of Britain.
The team did well at those races as a result of the racing programme, Denk said. “We saw the riders develop during the races and the season, and therefore they got good results in the big races.”
But König and Barta did not accomplish that alone, he noted. “Both surely had the best results this year. But to be on the podium of an HC race, the whole team must perform well. They also own a part of that.
“I hope that next year they will bring the same performance and maybe improve.”
If nothing else, they can be role models for the incoming riders. “Our new riders will be a mixture of young and a few experienced riders,” Denk told Cyclingnews. “I would be happy if the new riders develop like Barta or König.”
The highlight of the year for the team manger “was surely racing Paris-Roubaix, and König's second place in Austria.” On the other side of the coin, the low point came with “some learning experiences in some Belgian classics.”
The team has only three more races on its schedule this year, the Münsterland Giro (Oct. 3), Binche-Tournai-Binche/Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke (Oct. 4) and Paris-Bourges (Oct. 6)
It is still unknown as to whether the Professional Continental team will again receive invitations to such prestigious races as Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of California, Tour de Suisse, Tour of Austria and Tour of Britain in 2012. “I hoe that I can offer my riders a similar racing programme as this year,” Denk said.
The team will line up differently in the coming year. Daryl Impey, who only joined the team in May, will leave. “He has an offer from a ProTour team. We hope he will be happy with the new team. We are sorry to let him go but we can't stand in his way.” The South African's new team has not yet been announced.
The team's other well-known rider, Steven Cozza, will be back. The American missed much of the season with a parasitic and yeast infection which he said “caused havoc in my digestive tract.”
NetApp announced four new signings this week. The oldest is veteran Andre Schulze, 36, who has ridden for Polish teams for the last four years. The sprinter has four wins this season, and is expected to “assume a leader's role among the young sprinters on the team. Reto Hollenstein comes over from Team Vorarlberg and will use his climbing and all-round abilities to support the team's GC candidates in stage races.
Sprinter Grischa Janorschke is with Team Nutrixxion this year, where he took a stage win at the GP Sochi and six other podium finishes. The fourth rider is Slovenian Blaz Jarc, who is currently with NetApp as a stagiaire.
“We'll sign two or three other riders over the coming days,” Denk said. “I'm optimistic that, along with the three spots yet to be filled, we will have assembled the strongest and most experienced squad in the team's history thus far,” Denk said.
Leaving the team will be Impey, Michael Bär, Eric Baumann, Dmitri Claeys, Jesus Del Nero, Alexander Gottfried, David Hesselbarth, Robert Retschke, and Stefan Schäfer.