Steven Cozza to join the German NetApp team for 2011

Steven Cozza will switch from Garmin-Transitions to the NetApp team for 2011.

Stage 4, Amgen Tour of California 2010
Cozza leading a chase at the 2010 Tour of California. He hopes to return to his home-state race with his new squad in 2011.

American Steven Cozza will switch from Garmin-Transitions to a developing German team, NetApp, for the 2011 season.

The Californian all-rounder and classics specialist told VeloNews Friday that he had another year on his contract with the Garmin team, where he has spent his entire pro career so far.

But the team’s merger with Cervelo, which has brought a number of classics riders to the organization, caused him to look around at other opportunities.

“The merger of the two teams has been very stressful for a lot of guys,” said Cozza, the 2005 U.S. U23 time trial champion.

Team NetApp has been a UCI Continental registered team, but is stepping up to Pro Continental status for 2011. The team plans to race in that category for two seasons and then step up to the ProTour for the 2013 season, Cozza said.

“I will definitely have a full race schedule; I will probably race more than I would have with Garmin next year. And not only that but I will be able to race more for myself; I look forward to that,” the 25-year-old said. “I learned a lot from JV (Garmin director Jonathan Vaughters), it’s a very professional team. NetApp reminds me of Slipstream four years ago. It will be cool to be the underdogs again.”

While the team is based in Germany, NetApp is a California-based data storage company. Cozza said the team is hoping for an invitation to the 2011 Tour of California, where winning a stage will be a major goal for Cozza.

Team director Ralph Denk said Cozza was a key signing. “Steven Cozza was a preferred candidate. He is not just a great guy, but someone who will help us to realize new sporting achievements with his ProTour experience,” Denk said in a team statement.