Netapp rider brushes aside Belkin duo
Leopold Konig (Team Netapp-Endura) arguably pulled off the ride of the day and certainly the time trial of his life to move up from ninth to seventh in the Tour de France on Saturday. The Czech rider finished fifth behind stage winner Tony Martin (Omega Pharma QuickStep) in the 54-kilometre time trial between to Périgueux and overhauled the Belkin pair of Laurens ten Dam and Bauke Mollema in the overall. Seventh place in Paris in his debut Tour and with his Netapp contract ending, this term has immediately shoved Konig into the position of one of cycling's hottest properties for 2015.
At the finish line in Périgueux, as he talked to the media, Konig certainly did little to quell speculation over his future. Even with his team management standing two feet away and listening intently, when asked by Cyclingnews if he would listen to other teams should they approach him, he merely replied by saying, "I don't know. Ask me again in a month's time. I'm out of contract this year."
When asked he needed to move to a WorldTour team he replied that, "I want to solve this question after the Tour and all is open."
His future aside, Konig's present situation deserves notice. He came into the Tour de France as an outsider for the top 10 after he claimed a stage and finished ninth in last year's Vuelta a Espana. As any rider with a journalist's voice recorder shoved under their nose will tell you "the Tour is the Tour" and with all due respect to its Spanish equivalent, the calibre of talent and the thirst for success is greater on the battlefields that lead to Paris.
"The first 10 days were an absolute disaster but the next 10 days were absolute heaven," he said when asked to summarise his Tour ride.
"My Tour had two parts for me and the second part was a lot better. Maybe if we took out the time I lost to crashes and some bad luck I could have been up to fifth but that's only speculation but I know what I can achieve and I know how strong I was. I believe that for a debut in the Tour this is more than satisfying."
While Konig's time trial performance turned heads his final GC position was partially explained by Belkin's utter capitulation against the clock. Ten Dam finished over six minutes down on Tony Martin and four adrift of Konig. Mollema had an even worse outing, losing a staggering 9:36 to the stage winner.
"I just enjoyed it, even if it was a hard one," said Konig.
"I didn't feel the pain. I felt like I was flying. In the first days I had two crashes. One cost me nearly three minutes and then I had mechanicals. Finally my luck changed around."
As for his future in Grand Tours, Konig closed out with a statement that could be read as either a come and get me plea to rival teams or a public cry for more support in every sense of the word at Netapp.
"I'm telling everyone that my future is in Grand Tours and that I'm a Grand Tour rider and I'm still learning. It's just my second Grand Tour. I have a lot of work ahead of me but if I keep going like this I have a bright future."
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