Team NetApp “speechless” over Giro d’Italia wildcard
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Team NetApp “speechless” over Giro d’Italia wildcard

by Ben Atkins at 9:11 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Giro d'Italia
 
Acqua & Sapone team of mountain king Garzelli misses out to ambitious young German team

team netappThe wildcard invitation handed to Team NetApp by Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport has come as a big surprise, not least to the German team itself. Three of the four wildcards have gone as expected; to Italian teams Androni Giocattoli, Colnago CSF, and Farnese Vini-Selle Italia [although the latter two are registered in Ireland and Great Britain respectively – ed], but the inclusion of NetApp means leaving out Acqua & Sapone, the team of 2007 race winner Danilo Di Luca, and – more signinficantly – reigning Giro mountain jersey Stefano Garzelli.

The 2012 Giro will be the team’s first Grand Tour, although it did receive invitations to a number of WorldTour races in 2011; notably Paris-Roubaix, the Tour de Suisse, and the Vattenfall Cyclassics.

“I was a bit speechless when I got the news,” said Ralph Denk, Team NetApp’s team manager. “Although we presented ourselves in a confident way when applying, we also knew that we stood only an outside chance. Now it feels like the first season win. It’s a great confirmation for us.

“Our thanks go out to RCS as the organizer of the Giro d’Italia,” Denk added. “I’d like to thank them for the decision itself and for the implied confidence in our young team. The Giro will give us an opportunity to prove ourselves. I’d like to emphasize the courage it took RCS to venture down a new path in terms of awarding the wildcard.”

The small, German Professional Continental team was formed as recently as 2010, at third division ‘Continental’ level, and only rose to the relative heights of ProConti status for the first time last year. During the season the team took just one victory – the opening time trial of the Tour of Gallipolli, as late in the season as September, through Slovenian stagiaire Blaž Jarc.

Despite the lack of victories the team punched above its weight in a number of big races, with top rider Leopold König finishing second overall in the Österreich-Rundfahrt, third in the Tour de l’Ain and fifth in the Tour of Britain. Britain turned out to be one of the team’s strongest races, with König’s Czech compatriot Jan Barta finishing third overall.

“We believe that Leo still hasn’t exhausted his potential and that he will be able to finish the Giro in the top 20,” said Denk optimistically.

Unusually, while Team NetApp has been invited to ride the Giro in May, it has been passed over for RCS Sport’s other three WorldTour races – Tirreno-Adriatico, Milano-Sanremo, and il Lombardia – even though there are seven wildcards for the two single day races.

Acqua & Sapone has been invited to all three of these, but this will doubtless be no consolation for missing out on the big one in May.

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