It is time for Leo König to ride a grand tour. The Team Netapp rider said that after this breakthrough year of 2011, he is now prepared to take on one of the three week races.
The German Professional Continental team has made the short list for a Giro d'Italia wildcard, and the Czech rider told Cyclingnews that riding that race "would be a dream come true.“
"I think now is the best time for me to ride a grand tour race. I am prepared physically and mentally,“ he said. "For sure it would be a dream come true because I remember visiting the Giro in 2001 when I was a 13-year-old boy and back then I wished to be there one day.“
In his first year with NetApp last season, the young climber and time triallist first showed his potential by finishing second in the Czech national road race. He blossomed at the Tour of Austria, finishing third on the difficult Kitzbüheler Horn stage and moving himself into third overall on that second stage. A strong time trial on the penultimate stage moved him to second place, where he eventually finished. König also won the best young rider award.
That race was his biggest result ever, and "for me it was kind of a breakthrough for my confidence and regarding my style of racing,“ he said.
That wasn't all for him, though. He went on to claim third overall at the Tour de l'Ain and fifth at the Tour of Britain, which "confirmed that I am a tour rider who likes good climbs.“
The development was, for him, simply another step in the right direction. "For me the season was better than expected but I knew my progress is still going up. Last year I already felt much stronger than the years before and I still feel it."
This year's Giro is one for the climbers, with the penultimate stage featuring five climbs including the Mortirolo and a finish atop the Stelvio. "It´s really a challenging stage, which is going to be most decisive. I rode many Italian races like Giro del Trentino with those climbs so I know them a little bit and those climbs are extremely tough.“
König will open the season with the Mallorca Challenge and then "probably“ races like the Vuelta a Andalucia, "to get in shape“. But, he told Cyclingnews, much is up in the air at this point.
"At the moment all our planning for our race calendars are attached to the Giro wildcard decision because to get in shape for a three-week tour we need to race many tours ahead. Once we have this decision we will know more about our race calendar for 2012. But for sure I am aiming for better results even than the 2nd place overall in HC races, so I´m going for a win.“