Bora-Hansgrohe boss: We're looking for new superstars, not current superstars

Ralph Denk planning U23 programme in 2025 as Red Bull investment offers opportunities to grow

Clock13:06, Wednesday 10th April 2024
The arrival of Primož Roglič (right), and Red Bull, has changed the game for Bora-Hansgrohe

© Getty Images

The arrival of Primož Roglič (right), and Red Bull, has changed the game for Bora-Hansgrohe

Bora-Hansgrohe team boss Ralph Denk probably hasn't ever been this busy, but that’s what happens when you’re building one of the biggest teams in cycling, have attracted a global sponsor in the form of Red Bull, and have plans for a possible U23 programme in 2025.

Already one of the most successful WorldTour organisations in the sport, Bora-Hansgrohe signed Primož Roglič over the winter but their recruitment won’t stop there, although Denk stressed that his task was to now identify talent that could develop within his roster, rather than breaking up existing contracts between rival teams and riders.

He also put to bed the notion of signing Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) or sprinter Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), the latter seemingly too expensive in the current market.

Much of the excitement around the Bora-Hansgrohe camp has stemmed from March’s announcement that Red Bull would join as a sponsor and take a 51% stake in the team. That influx of investment and stability has seen a host of riders linked to the German squad but Denk was keen to stress that signing riders was only part of the team’s development, and that the project he has overseen for over a decade would make sensible and meaningful steps towards greater success.

When asked what had changed since the Red Bull news, Denk told GCN: "Not really much because the feeling in the team is that we have a secured a long-term future, and we still have contracts with Bora, Specialized and Hansgrohe until the end of 2027.

"We will respect those contracts but beyond 2027 we have a future and that means a lot for our staff because it’s not just a three or four-year future.

“For sure we’re aiming for guys in every position but we have really good staff at the moment and hopefully with this move we can develop our staff and our riders. The riders are for sure part of it, but the team is not just the riders."

The last few weeks have been awash with rumours and speculation, from a team name change that would incorporate Red Bull, to switching to red Specialized bikes ahead of the Tour de France. Both scenarios are feasible, of course, but Denk isn’t fixated on the aesthetics and is instead concentrating on the building blocks.

The Bora-Hansgrohe family already has a U19 project under its wing but the next step would involve a U23 programme in 2025. Denk is still in the planning stages but it’s only a matter of time before the wheels begin to turn and the German squad are ready to announce.

"We have almost daily conversations about what we’re going to do and when we’ll do it. At the moment, nothing has been totally decided but for sure the cycling fans will see the Red Bull branding somewhere around us but it’s not decided where or the timing," Denk said.

"We focus on taking things step-by-step and the rookie programme is super important for the whole project and that’s why we’re considering a U23 team and we’ll build up the house from the foundations. We won’t play around with big transfers and buy out some big stars from their contracts. That’s not our approach so far. You need a clear strategy and a clear plan. We’re working on it.

“Our U23 programme will come and it’s a project that in my opinion makes the biggest sense. We have a strong U19 squad and we don’t have a U23 one at the moment. That would be the next logical step for 2025."

Who would run the U23 programme needs to be clarified. Denk disclosed that several candidates were in the mix but that no decision had been made as of yet.

“It’s not decided yet. We have to do a lot of interviews and it’s not decided yet. In the best scenario, they have both WorldTour experience and are driven to also work with young riders.”

Denk also confirmed that there were no current plans for a women’s team in either 2025 or 2026 at this given time.

Rider transfers

The arrival of Roglič in the winter was a game-changer for the team, and provided them with a ready-made Tour de France contender come July. The signing galvanised the entire squad and, with Red Bull on board, every major star on the transfer market has been linked to the team.

Denk stated that there were six to eight spots yet to be filled for next year, with several riders on the cusp of leaving when their contracts expire at the end of 2024.

GCN has already reported that the team have already agreed terms with Classics revelation Laurence Pithie, with Denk only admitting that he’d read the GCN story before pausing to call the New Zealander a 'good rider'.

"Every talent is now linked with us because of our first announcement [Red Bull] but we’re looking for the new superstars, we’re not looking to the current superstars. We are looking for the ones that might need some development and we can help.

"The names that you mention, the deals aren’t done and we have to do our homework and there are the UCI regulations.”

Jasper Philipsen has been linked with a move to the team, too, with several teams hunting for the Belgian sprinter’s signature. Denk ruled out the move, saying it was "too expensive for us".

The team boss also added that Remco Evenepoel was no longer on the team’s radar after two consecutive years of links with the time trial world champion.

"Remco has a contract. We were not in talks. It’s logical but he has a contract with Soudal Quick-Step and we accept that."

One rider on the team who looks more and more likely to stay is Jai Hindley. The former Giro d’Italia winner is out of contract this year but all the indications suggest that the Australian will put pen to paper on an extension.

“We’re in good talks. He achieved a lot with us, or us with him. I have a good relationship with him and it would be nice if he is willing to stay with us."

For the latest news, interviews and analysis from the world of professional cycling, be sure to check out the Racing tab on the GCN website and visit our essential guide to The Spring Classics to stay up to date with all of the action from cycling's most exciting season.

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