NetApp impress at the Tour of Britain

German team NetApp continues to impress at the Tour of Britain, with Leopold König second and Jan Barta seventh on general classification after stage 6 behind leader Lars Boom (Rabobank).

König, Barta and Bartosz Huzarski were part of a 21-rider group which got away on the final climb and finished 1:24 ahead of the peloton in Wells on Friday. They finished third, fourth and ninth, to give the German Professional Continental team the team ranking on the day, for the second time in this race.

"Everything worked out very well again. Bartosz did a great job of supporting Leo and Jan in the group,” said sport director Jens Heppner.  “Now, the two of them are in excellent position going into the time trial on Sunday. If nothing unusual happens, it will decide the outcome of the tour, at least second to tenth places. Jan and Leo are both good time trial riders, and I think top five finishes are possible.”

The key stage will be Sunday morning's first half stage, a 10-km time trial in London. König did well enough in the time trial at the Tour of Austria to move up from third to second overall, where he finished the race.  Barta did even better, finishing sixth in that time trial.

Barta, 26, is not so sure about it, though. “That is difficult to say, since I can't really estimate the time trial qualities of the other top ten riders.”  He will try to maintain his placing in Saturday's stage, in order to “have the best starting position for the time trial,” he told Cyclingnews. “My goal is definitely the top ten.”

The next race for the Czech rider will be the world championships in Copenhagen, as he has been selected for the road race. “It's not bad for me because I can ride well on the flats, but I am not a sprinter. Maybe my best chance to come through is in a break, but then again, it is not up to me to determine the team strategy,” he explained.

Barta has experience in a break group at the Worlds. He first rode there in 2006 as a Under 23 rider, and then made his mark in 2009 in Mendrisio at the Elite race. “I was in the lead as an escapee almost the entire race, about 200 kilometers, and was caught only just before the finish.”

Cavendish tipped for victory in Copenhagen

He sees the race as going to a sprinter, “since it is very flat. I think that Cavendish is the favourite for the win, since he is not only in good form as he has shown here in England, but also because he has a good team behind him.”

Huzarski, 30, got dropped on the third stage, knocking him out of the GC, but continued to work for the team and work on his preparations for Worlds, where he will be in the Polish team. He was looking forward to the flat stages, “which are more comparable to Copenhagen.  Afterwards I will decide if I am prepared enough to start at the Worlds. The final decision is up to the cycling federation, but of course I have to confirm that I am good and prove it in Copenhagen.”

Starting at the Worlds will be nothing new for the veteran. “I would think it is my fifth time to start at the Worlds and it made me proud to be nominated because I am able to represent my country," he told Cyclingnews.

"We have two riders in the team who are able to do good results and so I will take over the role of a domestic to support our two leaders, Golas and Kwiatkowski.”

Huzarski, too, favours a sprinter to take the World title. “Of course it'll depend on the wind. Since the wind will be comparable to Belgium and the Netherlands, so the Dutch and Belgian riders as Boom and Gilbert have good chances. And if it will be a bunch sprint it'll be Hushovd, Cancellara or Cavendish to keep an eye on."

Both Barta and Huzarski will be back with NetApp next year, but they look back at the 2011 season differently.  Barta is satisfied with his general performance. “I rode well in all the stage races. Not just as most aggressive rider twice in California and once at the Tour de Suisse, but also in the GC and time trial at the Tour of Austria.  All in all it was a good season for me even if there were no wins. But next year I will have more chances to show my strengths.”

Huzarski was less satisfied. “I am not really happy about the season because I expected much more from myself. I am still without a victory and it hurts. I did a few very good races as Tour of Turkey and Tour de Pologne but I am more ambitious than that and I hope next year it will be much better.”

He sees a dual role for himself at NetApp in 2012. “I am on the team to share my experience with the younger riders, support them in the race and for stage races I'm the leader of the team, so I do get my chances on the team. But if someone  else is in better shape I will be also the one to help, also next year.”

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