Ralph Denk: “Our team is built around König”
NetApp-Endura is one of the four Pro Continental teams invited to the Tour de France, and the team managed by Ralph Denk is keen to show to the organizers that they weren’t wrong to give them a wild card. All the riders are racing the Tour de France for the first time, but they are all determined to give everything and to help Leopold König, the team’s leader, to get a stage win and a do a good GC. More on these you can read in the following interview with Ralph Denk, for which I must thank Miss Sandra Schmitz, who helped me talk to the German manager of NetApp-Endura.
– Mister Denk, was it difficult to make the team for the Tour de France?
Yes, of course, very difficult, because we had to make unpopular decisions, hoping that those riders who have to stay at home will not take it personally and understand that we decided for the best of the team and from a purely sporting point of view.
– Many were surprised Sam Bennett wasn’t there, especially as he won three races this season.
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, Leopold König, showed a 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. 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. 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 already raced a very intense program 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 in August, we strongly believe that Sam will add even more wins to his and the team’s account.
– What do you think of the Tour de France course?
I think it is a very balanced course, which suits any type of rider. For sure in terms of topography it is not the toughest Tour in history, but this is no indicator that it will be easy, because it is always the riders who design the race. One of the most difficult stages will be the 5th, during which you can’t win the Tour, but you can lose it. Everyone who experienced Paris-Roubaix knows that luck belongs to it as well and we hope that we’ll be lucky on the cobblestones.
– Leopold König will be the team’s leader. How is his form now, after the health problems that he experienced this season?
So far I believe he recovered completely. He raced well at the Bayern Rundfahrt (ed. – 4th place) and the Dauphiné (ed. – 11th place). So, we all expect him to be in good shape, that’s why we created the team around him. We can’t really compare the Tour with the Vuelta, but if he’s in a quite similar form in the second and third week, then he could repeat the result he had there.
– And what expectations do you have from the other riders?
I think that we are able to find a certain balance in the team to give every rider his chance to do something special and show his talents. Our main goal is to get a stage win.