Team NetApp-Endura is eagerly anticipating its first Critérium du Dauphiné, which will round out the first half of its season. The team will be looking for stage wins, and keep an eye on the GC, as well. Team manager Ralph Denk says that he is pleased with the team's development and he is still anticipating a move up to the WorldTour at some point in the future.
At the Dauphiné, the team will be looking to Jan Barta and Leo König, both of whom have brought in top results this spring. König won the queen stage of the Tour of California, and Barta won the Szlakiem Grodow Piastowskich, and finished on the podium in both the Circuit de la Sarthe and the Bayern Rundfahrt.
To win in the Dauphiné, “you have to do well in the mountains. We’ll see who can draw on those skills next week,” Denk told Cyclingnews. “There won’t be a leader on the team from the outset. We’ll decide that as the race progresses. Sometimes it’s better to remain flexible.”
One of the attractions of the Dauphiné is that it is run by Tour de France organisers ASO. Denk pointed out that this is “a very important race for us. It’s the first stage race, in Europe, organized by the ASO, that we’re competing in.”
Denk and the team had hoped that the wildcard to the Dauphiné was a signal that they would also get a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France, but that did not work out. It was the team's second such disappointment this year, after missing out on the Giro d'Italia, which it rode in 2012.
“Of course, you’re disappointed at first. When it’s your goal to compete in the greatest race in the world and then you’re not invited, well, that doesn’t exactly make you happy. It wasn’t so bad in terms of the Giro d’Italia because we were fortunate enough to compete there last year. But that doesn’t wipe away the disappointment. We’ll have another chance next year.”
The team will ride one grand tour this year, though, as it has been invited to the Vuelta a España. “Of course, our goal is to make it to the podium during one or more stages, and a stage win would be a dream come true. I’m absolutely sure the team can do that.”
The team this season is a mixture of NetApp riders and Endura riders, and Denk said that things are working out. “I’m satisfied so far. No doubt it’s a great challenge working together on a team with people from so many different countries and mentalities. But as the successes of the last weeks have shown, the system is working.”
Looking to the future, “The team is developing in line with my ideas, and I think that the last weeks were just the beginning of a very successful season. I still hope to compete with this team in the top league. That remains the declared goal for the next couple of years.”
König confident and motivated
Leo König, 25, is ready to build on his success from California, where he won the mountaintop finish at Mt. Diablo. The Dauphiné "is one of my highlights of the season with the difficult mountain profile which should suit me. I don‘t want to put any pressure on me so I take it easy as I have clear goals and I am well prepared.”
Denk denied that the California win was a “breakthrough” for the Czech rider, as he had a number of top placings in the 2012 season, including a stage win in the Tour of Britain. “If you take a look at Leo’s palmares, then you can’t really talk about a breakthrough. Over the past two years he’s demonstrated already that he can achieve some top results. I hope he’ll be able to confirm his success in California a few more times.”