Leopold König: “I want a top 10 finish and a stage win in the Tour de France”
He started with ice hockey at a very young age and then, when he was 12, discovered mountain biking as an excellent preparation for the winter season. Even if he had serious potential in ice hockey, Leopold König decided to switch his focus to road cycling at the age of 14 and he has no reason whatsoever to regret that decision.
After a couple of seasons with PSK Whirlpool, the young Czech signed with NetApp-Endura in 2011 and had his best year so far in 2013, when he won his national tour, the queen stage of the Tour of California, and a stage in the Vuelta a España (Alto de Peñas Blancas), where he also finished 9th overall. After these results, it’s only fair for Leopold Konig to have bigger goals ahead of this season. What are these? You can find out by reading the following interview.
– Leo, did you expect to have such a good run in the Vuelta?
Actually, I was sure of it, even if it was my first Grand Tour. I knew I was able to do well in a three-week race, because in shorter stage races, of ten days or two weeks, I was feeling better and better day after day. After doing the Tour of California and the Criterium du Dauphiné I was sure I’ll do well in Spain and luckily it all worked out.
– How was your stage win?
To be honest, my first goal was to get a top 10 finish in the GC, and my second goal was to win a stage. For someone who is trying to do well in the GC it’s quite hard to win a stage, and if you look at the top 10 from the Vuelta you can see around five guys won a stage. I was really proud that I was part of the group of riders that won a stage. I was also surprised that I achieved this goal in the first week, so it was a great feeling.
– You regret not finishing higher in the GC?
We can speculate about that, because it’s a long race and anything can happen. Of course, I could have been higher, but on the other I could have finished maybe 20-30 minutes behind. I’m happy I was in the top 10, but I regret the last mountain stage, on the Angliru, because I was confident I can keep my 7th place. I felt good in the last two days, but that day I just didn’t had good legs and I paid for the fact I was sick for some time. Anyway, top 10 was a great success.
– Let’s talk now about this season. What’s your programme?
I will start at the Challenge Mallorca and then I’ll do the Tour of Oman, followed by Tirreno-Adriatico.
– Any early goals for these races?
Oman and Tirreno will be very important, we have to show that we are in a good mood from the start of the season. I want results in both races, GC and also stage wins.
– If NetApp-Endura gets some wild cards for the Ardennes Classics, are you interested in these races as well?
I’ve never done the Ardennes Classics, but maybe I’ll do Liège–Bastogne–Liège if we get invited. I know the one-day races are always very difficult, I also have some limits in going full gas there, so I will not have any big goals.
– Are there any things you would like to improve?
I want to focus on the Grand Tours in the following years, because this is what I like in cycling. I would like to improve my time trial skills. Things are already going very well, as I started working for the ITT since three years ago. Also, I think I can still upgrade in the mountains and bridge the gap to guys like Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and the Spanish riders.
– NetApp-Endura has a wild card for the Tour de France. What will your objectives be there? GC and a stage win?
Yes, that’s the plan, even if it’s going to be very difficult and I will race against some of the best riders in the world. After the Vuelta, I’m very confident I can do it. The course is balanced, not as hard as the Vuelta, which was extreme. On the other hand, we have five mountain finishes and all are very hard. The first week will be very tricky, with the stages in Great Britain and the one with cobbles. The individual time trial in the last week can suit me, because I can recover without any problems and I could have an advantage comparing to the pure climbers in such a long ITT. Actually, I’m sure I can gain some time there.