By Susan Westemeyer
Team Volksbank is heading into its second season as a Professional Continental Team and wants to "put into practice what we were allowed to learn last year," said team manager Thomas Kofler. "This concerns the sporting experiences as well as the team management and the organization of the team."
In an interview on the team's website, team-volksbank.com, Kofler, 34, noted that the team has improved itself every year of its existence, and that the year, priority was given to the riders. "I think we moved up a gear and signed riders with strong qualifications. Furthermore we kept the best riders of last year's team, so I think we have a strong team." But that wasn't the only change this year. "We also improved concerning the material, logistics and the motor pool. This is very important for our appearance at the races and shows our professionalism to the organizers and the spectators. You don't have a professional team just because of professional contracts for the riders. A professional team also consists of good infrastructure, good material and a good staff."
The Austrian team's highlights this year will be the Tour de Suisse, the national championships, the Tour of Austria and the Deutschland Tour. "But we shouldn't frustrate us with exact terms of reference. Sure, the expectations are much higher than last season. The riders set their goals, not the team. This is why we signed focused riders."
Many small teams dream of one day joining the ProTour, but not Kofler. "I don't think that it is an aim to aspire to the ProTour as it is today. I think there are certain advantages for a good professional team and you are more flexible by choosing the races. You always make a mark on organizers with your appearance. That's how you get consideration even at big races. As a team from Austria, that is internationally regarded as a Second-World country in cycling, we see our mission in realizing structures adapted to the highest international standards and to fascinate the fans and many youths for this great sport."