Czech rider successful in first climb up the Kitzbüheler Horn
When Team NetApp's Leopold König finished third on the Kitzbüheler Horn in the second stage of the Tour of Austria, he may have been the most surprised - especially when he passed Carlos Sastre in the final metres before the finish line.
“I had the power and that was my advantage in the finale,” König told Cyclingnews on Monday evening. “I had more power than Carlos, and I really didn't expect that.”
It was a big day for the German Professional Continental team, as Daryl Impey was in the long escape, which was only caught on the final climb.
“It was a hard stage. Everybody was waiting for the last climb, and the team did a really great job, especially with the breakaway,” König, 23, said.
“Before the climb, they pushed me to the front. I had a good position at the beginning of the climb and that was a real advantage. I went up at my own rhythm, which is important, because everyone was attacking. If you don't have your own rhythm, you can't do it.”
“I got better and better as it went along, and at the top I was really good.”
It was his first time to tackle the legendary Austrian mountain. “I had heard a lot about it but you never know what to expect. The finale was really hard, the last three kilometers were really hard.”
In the end, the Czech rider was third, only 1:19 behind stage winner Frederik Kessiakof of Astana. He is also third in the GC, at 1:25, and leads the young rider classification.
"Beating Sastre was a real plus. My self-confidence is really growing. It is really nice to beat riders like that, not just Sastre, but all of them. I have some really nice feelings.”
There are still six stages to go, including several mountain stages. I think we have a great team here, and we are all looking forward to the next stage. I really want to keep third place,” he told Cyclingnews. “We will do our best and I hope we will be successful.”
Before joining NetApp this year, he rode for the Polish team PSK Whirlpool for five years. Last season he won the overall title in the Oberösterreichrundfahrt, often called the junior edition of the Tour of Austria.
He has continued to bloom this year, finishing 12th in the Vuelta a Andalucia / Ruta del Sol and 14th in the Tour of Turkey. Two weeks ago, he started his first WorldTour race, the Tour de Suisse. He surprised at the queen stage with his climbing abilities where he finished 14th. Most recently he was runner-up in the race for the Czech national road title.
Manager Denk proud of his team
NetApp is still looking for its first win of the season, but team manager Ralph Denk isn't discouraged. “We have always ridden very well in races, especially in the big races, but so far we haven't had the results. Today we got them.”
“I am very proud,” he told Cyclingnews. “We wanted to have someone in the group and succeeded. Daryl was very strong today.”
As was König. “Leo was, against all expectations, very strong. He did a hard mountain stage very well, and we are very proud of him.”