The can that is supposed to change German cycling is already omnipresent. At the Bora-hansgrohe team's training camp in Mallorca, the drink is on the tables as a matter of course, and the new star Primoz Roglic is already filming a commercial outside in the mild Spanish January. And team boss Ralph Denk joins us via video from California.
“I’m traveling on business,” says the Bavarian. What he doesn't reveal: He's sitting in the USA with representatives of the future owner Red Bull and the bike manufacturer Specialized.
What will happen there will herald a new era in cycling. If you look at the Austrian company's involvement in Formula 1 and football, it becomes clear: they have staying power and, above all, great success at some point. “They are at the absolute top level and always try the best of the best. Of the things you see in other sports, there is always only progress,” says the currently best German professional cyclist Lennard Kämna.
Objection still possible
The deal is not yet through. Objections to the company taking over 51 percent of the racing team can still be lodged with Austria's antitrust authorities until January 26th. Not really a serious hurdle. Denk has been working with Red Bull for three years. What began as small projects is now set to become a quantum leap for the team. “The time so far has been very pleasant and educational for us,” says Denk.
Of course the timing isn't perfect. The 2024 season has long been planned, new drivers can only be hired from August 1st. Officially. According to dpa information, feelers have been put out for a long time. All-rounder Wout van Aert, who already has a personal sponsorship deal with Red Bull, is a candidate. And for the big country tours, they have their sights set on the Belgian prodigy Remco Evenepoel. The 23-year-old former world champion is closely linked to Specialized and could replace Roglic, who is eleven years older than him, as the team's figurehead.
Tour victory as a goal
Oliver Mintzlaff, managing director of Red Bull and responsible for sports sponsorship, said on the sidelines of RB Leipzig's training camp in Spain that they were very excited about the project. The 48-year-old made it clear that the squad would be rebuilt from 2025 and that the goal - of course - was to win the Tour de France.
This year's tour, in which Roglic aims to win overall, would also be a good time to present the new project. With new jerseys and a new team name. Maximum attention would be guaranteed by the largest cycling spectacle in the world.
Criticism of the new donor, such as in football due to the commitment in Leipzig, is hardly to be expected in cycling. It is standard for teams to be named after sponsors and the influence is correspondingly great. The Austrians' entry is rather a welcome counterweight to the Arab money that has been poured into the sport in recent years.
Praise for thinking
The path to the top should be taken with Denk at the head of the team, whom Mintzlaff expressly praised. And the robust Upper Bavarian still feels great motivation despite his bank statement now looking significantly different. “I love what I do and I can’t do anything else except cycling,” says the 50-year-old. "It will be a partnership of equals. I think it's a good fit. After all, our two headquarters are only 45 minutes apart and we speak practically the same dialect."
Denk has been building up the team from Raubling in Upper Bavaria since 2010 and has gradually made its way to the top of the world. In 2022, the Giro d'Italia won one of the three major national tours for the first time. But the dream remains the tour. Individual highlights were created there, but never the big highlight.
With the new sponsor they want to play in the Champions League in terms of budget. It currently consists of teams like UAE and Ineos, who have around 50 million euros per year at their disposal. At Bora-hansgrohe it is about half.