NetApp rider still recovering from emotional strain
Winning the seventh stage of the Vuelta a Espana was “a dream come true” for Leo König. The NetApp-Endura rider was awed to have won a stage in his very first Grand Tour.
“I came to this race to learn and to get a result, but mostly to learn,” he told Cyclingnews on the rest day. "It is still my first Grand Tour -- you set some goals and believe in them, but you don't really think that they will come true so early. To win a stage in my first year .....
“At first I could not believe it. It was like a dream come true.”
The Czech rider had stayed with the group of favourites on the climb up to the Altos Penas Blancas, and with two kilometres to go, he attacked and went after solo leader Igor Anton of Euskaltel. Four other riders came up and joined him, but with one kilometre to go, he shook them off.
“When I saw Igor Anton, I thought it was not going to happen because he seemed really strong. Then he started looking back and shaking his head, and I saw from his body that he was very tired and I realized I had a chance. I just kept going and thought maybe I could win. With 50 meters to go I realized it, that was the moment.”
The victory had its price, though. The ceremonies, interviews and formalities took over an hour after the stage, and he still had to ride back to the hotel. The emotional strain hit him, and his body reacted to it.
“I was, I don't know, just exhausted. Everything coming together after winning the stage and that took so long. I didn't sleep very well, with all the emotions and everything,” König told Cyclingnews.
He suffered from fever and sleeplessness for the next few days, but was able to maintain his good GC ranking. “Of course, yesterday when the guys from the team saw that I was not really good, they helped me keep on fighting. I looked really bad and I felt really bad. I even thought I might not be able to finish.
“But in my mind I saw the finish line and was determined to cross it and I did, with the team's help.”
Although he had dropped from fourth to eleventh overall, he is optimistic about his chances, and already starting to feel better. “It is better, it is better, not so bad. I woke up a little fresher than yesterday.”
König is not worried about losing time on Wednesday's time trial or in the two following flat-to-rolling stages. “I now have three more days to recover and we will have even more opportunities to bring in a good stage result. I want to stay in the top ten.”
How does winning the Vuelta stage compare to his victory in the Queen stage of the Tour of California? “You can't compare them. I would say it is quite different when you win a stage in a Grand Tour.”
König, 25, joined NetApp in 2011 and his contract runs through next season. The team on Tuesday announced that three other riders have extended their contracts through the 2014 season. Paul Voss came to the team this year when it merged with Endura. He has ridden all the team's WorldTour races, and brought in a top ten stage finish in the Criterium du Dauphine.
Fellow German Andreas Schillinger has been with the team since its inception. He was third in the Ronde van Drenthe, rounding out an all-NetApp podium.
Jose Mendes of Portugal came to the team this season, and had a top ten finish in his first race, at the queen state of the Tour de San Luis.
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