Interview with Ralph Denk, Team Manager Team NetApp
Half of the season has past. Time to speak with Ralph Denk, Team NetApp's Team Manager, to find out about his conclusion of the first half of the season.
The first half of your season has been and gone. You’ve led your team through the classic race, the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of Austria, among many other races. Which of the races this year has been the most successful for your team?
We knew that the classic races would be a challenge for us. On that terrain you really need a lot of experience, which a young team is not yet able to exhibit. But we rode well there and presented ourselves very well. The biggest sporting highlight was of course the Giro d’Italia. There we stood against the toughest competitors and left boasting two stage places and eight Top Ten places. It of course also pleases me that in the ’smaller’ races we were able to show not only an active presence but were also in a position to reap good results. As the four podium spots in the Tour of Austria or three victories and second place in the GC in the Course de Solidarnosc reflect.
As the second most prestigious stage race in the world, participating in the Giro must have been a real honor. What did your team learn in particular from the Giro?
The team learnt to ride at a world-class level. In any case we already believed that our riders had the potential to perform at a world-class level. In the Giro we were able to unequivocally prove that.
The Tour of Austria was a very tough race due to the extreme temperatures. How did your team manage the eight stages overall? Are you pleased with the results?
It was clear to us that we would only be able to top Leo Koenig’s result last year (2nd in the GC) with difficulty. The particular preparation for Leo didn’t quite go according to plan because of his back injuries. But with four podium spots and 8th in the general classification, we can be more than happy with what we achieved as a second-division team at a competition where so many top-level riders participate.
Team NetApp have really proved themselves in the first half of the season and recently in the Course de Solidarnosc. Did you expect to see such good results and are you happy with the team’s performance?
The fact that we have so far this season obtained nine wins, ten second places and are in a higher position on the ranking list for the teams than some who are right now taking part in the Tour de France is to our credit, and underlines the hard and continuous work of the past year.
Some NetApp riders have had pretty bad luck in terms of injuries and crashes this first half-season. How has that affected the performance of the team overall this year?
It was often a challenge for the management to constantly lead the team as one and substitute injured riders. It is however not unusual that a lot of crashes happen on the small, narrow streets of France or Belgium in races that take place early on in the year. Sometimes it happens more often and sometimes less. But the team mastered it very well and above all has stayed strongly united.
Which of your riders in particular have had a really strong season so far and how do you expect to see them develop in the second half of the season?
Jan Barta is our most successful rider, but Bartosz Huzarski, Daniel Schorn and André Schulze have also contributed to our victories. However I don’t see success to be the success of individual riders, rather the success of the whole team, a lot of whom are helpers who first make these victories possible.
What are your plans for the second half of the season and what do you hope Team NetApp will achieve?
I am pleased to say that we will be starting with the Tour of Utah, in the country of our Sponsor NetApp. Looking at the topography it seems like it will be a tough race, which will suit Marcel Wyss and Leo Koenig. Both have potential above all in the mountains and also have considerable qualities as time trialists. We aren’t going to travel all that way just to ride along. We would like to have a say in the general classification.