The 105th edition of the Tour de France gets underway on Saturday. Ralph Denk, head of the German cycling team Bora-Hansgrohe, spoke to DW about his expectations for the Tour and Chris Froome's doping acquittal.
DW: Ralph Denk, you are about to embark on a tour with only eight riders per team — is this a tactical problem for your team?
Ralf think: No, it's more of a problem for the people responsible for picking the lineup. They could no longer pick nine riders, so had to choose just eight. We had to make some tough decisions and leave people at home who actually deserved to be there. But eight riders per team mean a smaller field overall and less tactical leeway for the teams.
Is the claiming the yellow jersey early a big goal for your team?
No, it is not a big goal, because with Peter Sagan we are not the favorites for the first stage. Peter's quality tends to come to the fore when it comes to stamina or cropped terrain [sometimes flat, sometimes with gradients]. It is a relatively flat stage, and everyone will still be fresh, so I see Marcel Smock or Fernando Gaviria as the favorites, not us.
Your team has gone through an amazing transformation, from underdogs to one of the biggest in the peloton. How was that possible?
It is my philosophy that two things have to fit: You have to have good riders, a good internal team structure and good coaches, but you also have to be attractive to the sponsors. You have to work within the sponsorship structure to reap the greatest rewards, because you need a sufficient financial basis to be competitive in cycling at the highest level.
Chris Froome will now race in France, despite a positive doping test at the 2017 Tour of Spain. Do you think that's fair?
I think it's good that the case was decided before the tour. The UCI [world cycling's governing body] reached a verdict: acquittal. I want to stress that the UCI has an agreement with WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency], and it also examined the reasons behind the acquittal. So we have two bodies saying there was no infringement. I'm glad it's settled.
In the past, drivers were banned with a lower Salbutamol concentration, but Chris Froome was acquitted. Is the UCI guilty of double standards?
I don't think so. If the UCI were guilty of double standards, WADA would tell the UCI that it is not the case. Based on the evidence, I believe the defense of Team Sky and Froome must be plausible.
What do you expect from this Tour?
I think this Tour will be wide open. Chris Froome has already ridden at the Giro d'Italia and won. But I believe that he has shown weaknesses in the process, and that other riders, like hopefully our own Rafal Majka, will have the chance to attack him. I would be delighted if the Team Sky weren't as dominant as much they have been in the past few years.
Former amateur cyclist Ralph Denk is team leader of the German professional team Bora-Hansgrohe. The 44-year-old Bavaria native founded the team in 2010. Since then, the team has repeatedly changed sponsors and thus also its name. Among those under contract at Bora-Hansgrohe is Slovakian rider Peter Sagan. Sagan has won the world championship three years running and and won the green jersey at the Tour de France five times.