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”Starting a New Season with More Strength and Confidence”

In February Austrian Team Vorarlberg presented itself to the public – with a new roster and the STEVENS Xenon

f.l.t.r..: Manuel Porzner, Michael Kucher, Clément Koretzky, Sergio de Sousa, Nicolas Winter, Lukas Meiler, Manuel Schreiber, Thomas Umhaller, Patrick Jäger, Dèr Zsolt, Francesc Zurita, Patrick Schelling. Not incpicture: Daniel Lehner, Akinori Yamamura

In its 18th season Team Vorarlberg has put together a versatile roster for an ambitious race calendar. During winter the riders did base work on their STEVENS Xenons. For a team building event the 14 riders and team staff headed by manager Thomas Kofler met at their partner hotel Walliserhof in the town of Brand in the Austrian Federal State of Vorarlberg.

This event obviously created an ”excellent spirit” within the team. This spirit could be felt at the team presentation at local car dealership ’Autohaus Niederhofer’ - supplier of the team’s two support cars – where the team introduced itself to the public.

In a video and interviews the team looked back on the phenomenal past season featuring the overall win of the Österreich-Rundfahrt (Tour of Austria) and in the Fleche du Sud, a category 2.2 stage race through Luxemburg. To top these results would be a hard piece of work. All in all the team now is better equipped for mountain stages, but it now also has pure sprinters on its roster.

Bike sponsor STEVENS Vertriebs GmbH wishes the team all the best for the upcoming season. ”The team has a great roster and for all the riders who left we found equally strong replacements. Together we are happily looking forward to the season”, said Nico Schild, STEVENS head of sales for Austria.

Experienced and New Riders
During the winter management had work tirelessly on the completion of the team’s roster. Tour of Austria winner Victor de la Parte, Nicolas Baldo and captain Grischa Janorschke have left the team and their strength had to be compensated to obtain a good mix of experienced riders and young, ambitious athletes.

Educating young, ambitious riders especially those from the Vorarlberg region, still is a key aspect. So, it was only consequential that the contracts of young riders like Patrick Jäger, Manuel Schreiber, Daniel Lehner and Lukas Meiler have been extended. Also Akinori Yamamura (21) from Nagasaki/Japan signed for another year.

Manager Thomas Kofler says about the young riders: ”Last year, Patrick made his greatest leap forward performance-wise. If he keeps working that hard, he will make his way as a professional athlete. Manuel came from the amateur level and demonstrated his talent on multiple occasions in the mountains and in the time trial. The next season will be easier for him since not everything is new to him anymore. Daniel showed great performance in the one day races – he is a rider for the future – we are looking forward to it.”

Also Clément Koretzky and Nicolas Winter will stay with the team. Frenchman Koretzky again will try to be in break-away groups in the classics and hard one-day races. Last spring, with his active riding style he won the KOM jersey of the Boucles de la Mayenne. The 26-year old Swiss will enter his third season with Team Vorarlberg. The team will rely on his experience – it’s his seventh year as a pro – and his strength in stage races and hard one-day competitions.

Manuel Porzner is new on the team. He comes from Team Stölting so he knows the STEVENS Xenon team bike very well. The U23 rider and member of the German National team won two stages of the Tour of Hungary (UCI 2.2) last year. Next year he wants to be in the top ranks in sprint finishes and short prologues.

In tough mountain races Sergio de Sousa from Portugal will take over the role of Victor de la Parte, winner of last year’s Tour of Austria (UCI 2.HC). The 32-year old already celebrated victories in several stage tours and hard races. In 2014 he came in second in the Portuguese National Championships and third at the Tour of Asturia (UCI 2.1) and the Vuelta a Castilla y León (UCI 2.1). Sousa about his transition to Austria: ”I am very happy that my transition to Austria has worked out. I try to do my best and I am gladly looking forward to a successful season – nearly all races are new to me, because so far mostly raced in my home country and in Spain.”

Another new entry to Team Vorarlberg is Patrick Schelling, a strong climber, who comes from IAM Cycling. He says: ”By changing to a lower category I hope to have more liberties and the possibility to race as the team leader and win good results. To re-advance to a Pro Continental or World Tour team is my priority. I like the friendly atmosphere at Team Vorarlberg. It motivates me to go full throttle next year and justify that I was given the chance.”

A diamond in the rough is what team management calls newbie Francesc Zurita from Spain. The 24-year old comes from the amateur category where he won many sprint finishes. The team became aware of him when he finished fifth in the 2015 Spanish Nationals.

Together with Manuel Porzner and Patrick Jäger Hungarian Dèr Zsolt (32) will go on the hunt for sprint victories. Zsolt was on the team’s wish list. He is known as an intelligent rider, useful to a team, he has already won five UCI races and is a time trial power house.

Thomas Umhaller is a talent from Upper Austria, who despite being only 20years old will ride his third season on Continental level. He is part of the extended Austrian U23 team and is eager to reach a stronger position within that squad.

Shortly before the start of the season Michael Kucher (Austria) joined the team. The 22-year old is known as a strong rider in tough races and on hilly courses.

Promising Results in the First Races
The team has already showed promising results in the first races. Newbie Sergio Sousa sprinted to 9th place as the only rider from a Continental team to finish in the top ten. Since the General Classification had not been decided before the last stage, the Pro Tour teams such as AG2R, Astana and FdJ cranked up the speed to an average of 48kph (30mph). At place 16 in the final ranks Sousa also won the first UCI points for him and the team. One day earlier Sousa had also gained points in the KOM classification.

At the same time Nicolas Winter suffered a bad crash. After another rider had bumped into him, he fell over a roadside wall which at first nobody realized in the hectic race. He suffered a partial fracture in multiple vertebrae but was already able to smile again at the team presentation.

Stage winner became Jan Bakelants from Belgium of Team AG2R la Mondiale. Overall winner of the stage race from Banyole, Spain along the French Mediterranean cost to Bordighera in Italy became Andrei Grivko, Ukraine from Team Astana.

Right after the team presentation Sousa again demonstrated his potential at the Grand Prix of Izola (UCI 2.1) in Slovenia, which is the first race of a whole two-week race series in Croatia and Slovenia. On the 156km circuit he finished 16th, Patrick Schilling came in 22nd. Before, team mate Thomas Umhaller was part of a break-away group but had to drop back due to knee problems.

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