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Tour de France: NetApp-Endura focuses on Koenig's GC ambitions

The NetApp-Endura team has named its nine riders for its debut at the Tour de France, building its squad around Leo König and his hopes of doing well in the general classification. As a consequence sprinter Sam Bennett has not been selected, with team manager Ralph Denk preferring to give the young Irishman a break in July so he can be fresh for the second half of the season.

König will have the support of four climbers, with Jan Barta, David de la Cruz, Australia's Zak Dempster, Bartosz Huzarski, Tiago Machado, Jose Mendes, Andreas Schillinger and Paul Voss joining in the blue and white NetApp-Endura colours. Yorkshiremen Scott Thwaites is named as a reserve and so is unlikely to get to race on his home roads during the Grand Depart stages.

König finished ninth overall in the 2013 Vuelta a Espana and won a stage. He struggled due to a knee injury early this season but finished overall at the Bayern-Rundfahrt and eleventh at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

All the riders in the NetApp-Endura line-up will be racing at the Tour de France for the very first time, although they have competed in either the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a Espana.

"We'll be riding with the required level of respect, but also with self-confidence, at the Tour. We've just completed the most successful first half of the season in our team history, and of course the guys are extremely motivated," Denk said announcing the team.

"The first goal we've set for ourselves is for Leo König to finish in the Top15 of the GC. We're assigning four climbers – De la Cruz, Huzarski, Machado and Mendes – to offer him support. In addition, we also intend to join in the battle for a stage win. With Barta and Dempster, as well as our German veterans Schillinger and Voss, we also have some very good options for the rather profiled stages."

No place for Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett was included in NetApp-Endura's long list of 14 riders for the Tour de France but the 23 year-old Irishman did not make the final cut despite his success in sprint finishes this season.

Denk explained to Cyclingnews that the decision not to select Bennett was based on two reasons.

"We took two points into consideration, when we decided not to include the Tour de France into Sam's program. Firstly, our leader for the GC Leo König showed great form recently. That made us confident to build our team at the Tour de France around him and to focus mainly on the GC. Secondly, we believe that a participation in this year’s Tour de France would come too early for Sam. Despite him being quite grown-up for his age, he is still young. He has been racing his first six months as a professional cyclist only."

NetApp-Endura told Cyclingnews that Bennett has a contract with the team for 2015 and the German Professional Continental squad has long-term strategy for Bennett's career development.

"Obviously, I am more than satisfied with him being part of our team. But within the team management we have a responsibility for our riders that gives no space for any opportunistic short-term thinking," Denk said.

"Our approach with Sam is much more long-term orientated. We want to build him up carefully and step-by-step. Compared to his last season, Sam has raced a very intense program already and he did it very successfully. So after the Nationals, we’ll give him a break so he can build-up a proper form for the second half of the season. Starting with the RideLondon Classic (August 10), we strongly believe that Sam will add even more wins to his and the Team’s account."

NetApp-Endura for the Tour de France: Jan Barta, David de la Cruz, Zak Dempster, Bartosz Huzarski, Leopold König, Tiago Machado, José Mendes, Andreas Schillinger, and Paul Voss.

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