Team Manager Ralph Denk
Ralph Denk, * November 1, 1973
“Even after three years, Team NetApp - Endura is still a project I put all my heart and soul into. Especially now, I see this project above all as the chance to offer a new generation of riders the opportunity to pursue their dream job without pressure and, above all, in a clean way. Our approach offers opportunities to both German and international riders. The continuity in our work with young cyclists is already showing initial success and further potential. This work is my contribution to a clean future and the improvement of cycling.”
Ralph Denk took up cycling at the age of 12. As an up-and-coming rider, he established himself in his younger years by earning a spot on the “Opel Schüler Berlin” elite team. He competed in tours, including the Bayern Rundfahrt, as well as in various six-day races until 1996. He claimed the title of Bavarian champion on several occasions and once achieved third place in Munich's six-day race. As of 1996, he took up a new challenge as a technical representative at SRAM Cooperation, a U.S.-based manufacturer of components. In 2000, he opened his own bike shop, the Ralph Denk Bikestore in Raubling near Munich.
At the same time, he became involved in mountain bike racing, founding the Giant Racing Team, a UCI mountain bike team, in 2005. He celebrated many successes with them as the team manager, including overall victory in the 2006 World Cup and silver medal at the World Championships. In spite of this, road cycling remained his passion, which is why he began supporting and managing several projects for young talent from 2007. His own U19 team for promising riders, Team Auto Eder Bayern (previously called Quest-Ralph-Denk-Team), continues to claim impressive wins today. Since 2010, he has served as team manager for the Team NetApp professional squad, which in just one year climbed from the third to the second cycling league and continues to pursue its path to the top of world cycling.
Assistant General Manager Brian Smith
Brian Smith, *July 7, 1967
“Team NetApp differentiates itself in particular by giving talented riders the opportunity to appear and develop on an international cycling stage. Finding hidden talent and diamonds in the rough is one of the most important and enjoyable tasks that we have. In doing so, we apply our many years of experience, and already we’re witnessing our pro riders’ initial successes.”
Brian Smith, Team NetApp Endura’s new assistant general manager, didn’t have much choice when it came to bike racing, coming from a family where cycling was part of daily life. Brian was Scottish schoolboy, junior and senior road champion and a mainstay of the Scottish international scene. After following fellow Scot Robert Millar to the famous Paris ACBB club, Brian turned pro, was British professional road champion in 1991 and 1994, rode the Giro d’Italia for Motorola and represented Great Britain in the Atlanta Olympic road race in 1996.
Having retired from racing in 1999, Brian stayed close to the sport that has been his life working variously as team manager, talent spotter and British Eurosport cycling commentator. Brian was also the co-founder of the Braveheart Fund, a charitable fund designed to support young Scottish cycling talent. In 2011, Brian worked as general manager with Endura, the clothing company which, obviously, co-sponsors the NetApp team. With a combination of top level racing experience, commercial acumen and team management, Brian has the perfect mix of skills for his new role. Brian Smith will support General Manage Ralph Denk with organizational planning and in particular with scouting activities for talented and up-and-coming riders.
Sport Director Jens Heppner
Jens Heppner, * December 23, 1964
“Building a cycling team requires a great deal of skill, perseverance, ambitious goals, and reliable partners. With this recipe, we have been able to successfully climb from the Continental Team to participating in the first Grand Tour in three years. This progress is without equal. Today’s successes prove that we went in the right direction. With team spirit and motivation, a great deal can be accomplished in competitive cycling. And that is a task we are happy to take on.”
Jens Heppner’s cycling career began at the early age of nine with his hometown club BSG Elektronik Gera. Four years later, he transferred to the SG Wismut Gera sports school, where he was able to score his first successes over the next 12 years. Among other things, he was the junior world champion in the team time trial, stage winner and overall winner of the Hessen Rundfahrt, a two-time winner of the Sachsen Tour and the GDR’s road cycling champion. After just two years with Team Panasonic-Sportlife, he moved to Team Telekom, a milestone in his professional career. During that time, he participated several times in major tours, including the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. He placed 10th overall at the Tour de France, wore the leader’s jersey for 11 days at the Giro d’Italia, was the German professional champion, won the Deutschland Tour, and counts many other stage wins and overall wins among his successes.
Jens Heppner continued racing, joining Team Wiesenhof in 2003. In 2005, he took on the position of team manager. When it was founded in 2009, Team NetApp secured both Heppner’s experience as a rider and as a team manager with Team Wiesenhof. Jens Heppner lives in Kelmis, Belgium, very close to Team NetApp’s service course. He’s an important pillar for the team in his role as sport director.
Sport Director Enrico Poitschke
Enrico Poitschke, * August 25, 1969
"Team NetApp has continuously developed over the last few years. This past season we were able to bring home several great victories. Now we want to continue this success with Team NetApp - Endura. We were able to achieve our initial goal of ‘finding hidden talents and polishing diamonds in the rough,’ now we want to achieve new goals with experienced riders and talented young riders. We are certain that the team is ready for it!”
Enrico Poitschke also embarked on his cycling career at an early age. He competed in his first race at the age of 11 at his hometown’s BSG Einheit Niesky cycling center. When he was 15, he transferred to the SG Wismut Gera sports school, which enjoyed an excellent reputation in terms of training cycling talent. Just one year later, Enrico Poitschke was named in the junior national team for the former GDR, where he soon went on to claim international successes. After switching to the amateur field, the former professional rider competed at races along with Jens Heppner, his current colleague at Team NetApp. Further cooperation involving both of them followed in 2003-2004 at Team Wiesenhof, where they formed the team’s mainstay. From 2005 to 2008, Poitschke competed for Team Milram, a ProTour team, racing at all the major national tours during that period. Since 2010, he has been a member of Team NetApp's sport management team, offering 25 years of experience as an amateur and professional.
Sport Director Alex Sans Vega
Alex Sans Vega, *27. Juli 1976
“I am convinced that Team NetApp-Endura will be a successful team in the coming season and also in the future. It is a very balanced team, which is ideally positioned for all races with both young and experienced riders and well organized team leadership. Team NetApp - Endura goes without big names in its line-up because the team has shown again and again that it is able to use its collective strength and exceed expectations in every race. Accompanying Team NetApp - Endura on its next steps will be exciting, and a challenge for us all.”
Alex Sans Vega took a surprisingly unconventional career path to becoming Sport Director for a cycling team. He was not a professional rider, as is usually the case. He rode for two years in the U-23 category, until he had to stop because of injuries and his studies.
In order to stay connected to the cycling world, Alex Sans Vega became a mechanic and soigneur for U-23 crews in Spain. In 2000, he took a position with Team Memory Card Jack & Jones, which was renamed one year later as Team CSC. He stayed there for nine years. He then moved to the Cervélo Test Team, where he assumed the role of Sport Director for the first time. In his time at Team CSC and the Cervélo Test Team, he accompanied the riders on 20 Grand Tours and all of the well-known classic races. After the Cervélo Test Team was dissolved, he moved to the British Endura Racing Team. With his large wealth of experience, his rider knowledge, and his southern European roots, Alex Sans Vega is a valuable addition to the existing Sport Directors Jens Heppner and Enrico Poitschke.