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- Article published:
- June 26, 2013, 19:32
- Cycling News
Racers ready for lots of singletrack at Canadian mountain bike stage race
The BC Bike Race is ready to roll with a stacked roster of singletrack hounds salivating at the mouth to get out and race the "Ultimate Singletrack Experience" as deemed by promoters. Day one will begin on June 30 in Cumberland and the race will finish in Whistler on July 6.
Year seven will see few changes to a course that has been tweaked to perfection over the previous six years. Each town along the course provides a large selection of "handmade" trails that have for 359 days or since the last edition received some serious trail attention; buffing, shaping and carving the legendary trails into premium condition for this the 2013 alumni's adventure.
The enduro is back. Thirteen chip-timed special segments will highlight some of the best descents of each stage. Ranging in length from 1km to 2.5km, the enduro - the race within the race - will continue to reward the technically savvy over the engine-only types.
550 racers from 26 different countries will hit the dirt, flowing singletrack in Cumberland. From there the journey will unfold crossing the Pacific Ocean three times on the BC Ferries, visiting Campbell River, Powell River, Sechelt and Squamish to it’s conclusion in Whistler, British Columbia.
Last year's champions Neal Kindree and Wendy Simms will take on challengers from all over the globe as they defend their right to wear the leaders yellow jersey on the final podium.
Kindree hails from the local town of Squamish and has been a member of the Canadian National team. He will compete against 2011 Canada Cup overall winner Matt Hadley (Team Xpresso), endurance specialist Cory Wallace (Kona), European marathon specialist Guido Thaler (Craft Rocky Mountain Bikes), Carter Hovey (Orbea), Sam Whitingham (Naked Bikes) and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame Inductee Joe Murry (Voodoo Cycles).
Hadley was fourth in the BC Bike Race in 2012 while Wallace can boast a second place finish at 24-hour Worlds in 2010 and another second at the Mongolia Bike Challenge in 2011. Hovey and Thaler have previously finished sixth and seventh, respectively, at the BC Bike Race.
Whitingham currently holds the World Land Speed record in the human powered division. His mountain bikes skills are exceptional, and this will be his first time at the BC Bike Race.
In the women's race, six-time Canadian National Cyclo-cross Champion Wendy Simms will race 2012 Swedish National Champion Anika Bergman (Craft Rocky Mountain Bikes), a former resident of Whistler.
Some favorites for the enduro competition include free rider Wade Simmons (Rocky Mountain Bikes), 2012 BCBR enduro winner Andreas Hestler (Rocky Mountain Bikes) and Joe Schwartz (Team Kona).
- Article published:
- June 26, 2013, 20:52
- Cycling News
New board members to promote various NICA initiatives
The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) announced an honorary board of directors, comprising a group of prominent figures in the cycling industry who are actively contributing to NICA's efforts to achieve its mission of developing high school mountain biking programs from coast-to-coast by 2020.
NICA Executive Director, Austin McInerny, said, "I have very high hopes for our new honorary board. We are so very fortunate that everybody involved with NICA has shown a willingness to roll up their sleeves and volunteer time to help assist us grow interscholastic cycling opportunities across the nation."
"The honorary board members are keen to help us expand our programs aimed at providing every American teen the opportunity to strengthen body, mind and character through participation in their school’s mountain bike team."
Honorary board members are high-profile devotees of the NICA mission who are very active in cycling events and have demonstrated strong communication skills. By including NICA in their regular communications efforts, honorary board members are expected to attract 25,000 viewers to screenings of Singletrack High, recruit 500 members to the NICA Booster Club, and cultivate sponsors from out of the cycling industry.
The co-chairs of the honorary board are Sara Ecclesine of Sidi America, and Gary Boulanger, of Dirt Rag magazine.
"For starters, all honorary board members have joined the Booster Club, and some such as Mike Sinyard of Specialized Bicycle Components, Scott Tedro and Jeremiah Bishop both from the Sho-Air/Cannondale Mountain Bike Team have made very significant financial contributions," said Boulanger.
Other duties for honorary board members include applying their unique skills and talents to assist NICA expand its support network, especially outside of the bike industry.
"High school cycling should have sponsorship appeal to out-of-industry companies, and this seems just the right cast of characters to work on identifying and connecting with interested companies," said Ecclesine.
The board currently has 22 members, as follows, and seats on the board are appointed annually. For bios of all honorary board members, click here.
NICA Honorary Board
Gary Boulanger Sales Guy/Writer, Dirt Rag Magazine (co-chair)
Sara Ecclesine Brand Manager, SIDI America (co-chair)
Jeremiah Bishop, Pro Athlete, Sho-Air/Cannondale MTB Race Team
Chris Cocalis, CEO, Pivot Cycles
Lea Davison, Pro Athlete, Specialized MTB Team
Lucas Euser, Pro Athlete, UnitedHealthcare Cycling Team (NorCal League alum.)
Gary Fisher, Mountain Biking Evangelist, Trek Bicycles
Jimena Florit, Mountain Biking Olympian (2000 and 2004)
Mari Holden, Road Cycling Olympic Medalist
Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, Pro Athlete, Trek Factory Racing
Heather Irmiger, Pro Athlete, Trek Factory Racing
Ashley Korenblat, CEO, Western Spirit Cycling Adventures
Jimmy ‘Mac’ McIlvain, Editor, Mountain Bike Action
Eddie O'Dea, Owner, 55nine Performance, Pro Athlete, Topeak-Ergon MTB Team
Namrita O'Dea, Owner, 55nine Performance, Pro Athlete, Topeak-Ergon MTB Team
Ned Overend, Pro Athlete, Specialized MTB Team
Nat Ross, POC Sales//Marketing Manager
Rebecca Rusch, Pro Athlete, Specialized MTB Team
Mike Sinyard, CEO, Specialized Bicycle Components
Marla Streb, Media Liaison/Coach, Team LUNA Chix
Kimber Tedro, Amateur Athlete, Sho-Air/Cannondale MTB Race Team
Brian Vaughan, CEO/Co-founder, GU Energy
- Article published:
- June 27, 2013, 17:00
- Cycling News
Round 1 winner Barel and Moseley back for round 2 in France
After starting in Punta Ala, Italy, Enduro World Series moves to Val D'Allos, France, the birthplace of enduro mountain bike racing.
Three hundred riders will tackle the five-stage course, with reigning French Series champions Jerome Clementz and Tracy Moseley battling for supremacy against Punta Ala winner Fabien Barel and other titans from all disciplines of biking, including Dan Atherton, Aussie BMX champ Jared Graves, Belgian wunderkind Martin Maes, Nico Vouilloz, Steve Peat, Curtis Keene, Remy Absalon, Nico Lau, Cam Cole, Justin Leov and René Wildhaber, and Pauline Dieffenthaler and Hannah Barnes amongst the 30-strong women's competition.
Taking place at the source of the Verdon River, near Mercantour National Park, the Val d'Allos course will travel the Alpine pastures and forests of the Southern Alps, a world apart from from the scene of St Tropez and the French Riviera, despite being just a two-hour drive away.
Taking advantage of two of the Val d'Allos - Le Seignus resort's chairlifts means that the start of each liaison will be accessed primarily from the lifts, but with an untimed first lap for each stage offering a kind of live practice. In combination with the second timed lap, riders will total 10,000 metres of cumulative vertical drop and more than an hour of cumulative race time.
The course will not be revealed until race weekend, with the resort's bike park closed through the week, ensuring no practice runs can be taken apart from a course walk the day before the race.
The blind approach conforms with enduro racing as it originated in Val d'Allos a decade ago. "Having to find the best line in the heat of the moment is the original spirit of enduro," said Fred Glo, founder of Tribe Sport Group and president of Tribe Events, and the originator of enduro mountain bike racing. "It's a different kind of riding if you know the track perfectly."
Glo's "raw" version of enduro racing was inspired by the original motorbike format that the concept was adapted from. In creating the event, he simply created his dream format for the race he would want to ride in order to come away sated on top quality trails and fun.
Former women's downhill world champion and EMBA Advisory Board member, Moseley, who won the first race at Punta Ala, and goes into this race as the women's favourite, says that blind approach is "the purest way of showing who's got the best bike-handling skills. When there is so little you can do to prepare for a trail, you really have to rely on instinct and your natural ability."
The first Tribe 10,000 Enduro in 2003 quickly became an annual fixture allowing riders to test technical and physical skill. Over the past decade, the Val d'Allos men's race has only been won by five racers: Karim Amour, Willy Balaud, Alex Balaud, Remy Absalon and Jerome Clémentz.
Founder Glo says the combination of a 10,000 metre goal, plus fun riding on spectacular trails and the challenge to finish in good shape were the ingredients that made the race such a success back in 2003, and they are still the elements that make enduro mountain bike racing appealing today.
The format that Glo pioneered spread across France at other resorts, inspired the Italian SuperEnduro adaptation, and in 2011 became a national series, the first FFC Enduro French Cup.
"We all started to ride mountain bikes because we love to go down, have fun and enjoy a challenge. Our first and main focus, still, is to offer the best riding experience possible on the best trails," says Glo.
A decade later, Val d'Allos, the birthplace of enduro mountain bike racing, hosts the second of a seven-stop global series that aims to unite the discipline to create the best rider experience possible and to crown a single world champion - a success story best defined, as Glo says, "by amateurs and pros, winners and losers all sharing the same smile Sunday evening."
- Article published:
- June 28, 2013, 00:38
- Cycling News
Twenty-nine riders headed to South Africa
London Olympian Karen Hanlen and junior world champion Anton Cooper will lead a 29-strong New Zealand team at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in South Africa in August.
The team is dominated in numbers by downhill riders, headed by New Zealand's professional quartet of world number four ranked Brook MacDonald (Trek World Racing), 13th ranked George Brannigan (Trek World Racing), 15th ranked Sam Blenkinsop (Lapierre International) and 19th ranked Cameron Cole (Yeti Fox Shox).
The championships will be staged in Pietermaritzburg, 80kms from Durban, with the junior cross country on August 29, the U23 cross country and junior downhill on August 30, the elite cross country on August 31 and the elite downhill on September 1.
New Zealand team for 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships
Elite men downhill
Elite women downhill
Junior men downhill
Elite men cross country
Elite women cross country
U23 men cross country
Junior men cross country
Junior women cross country
- Article published:
- June 29, 2013, 13:00
- Cycling News
South African recovered after Cape Epic crash
Top South African elite women's cross country mountain biking competitor Yolande Speedy (Epic Sports/USN/GT) is on the comeback trail ahead of the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, which take place at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg from August 26 - September 1, after being sidelined by a broken collarbone and two broken ribs.
Speedy sustained the injuries in a nasty crash on the second to last stage of the Cape Epic in March however; being the tough competitor that she is, Speedy picked herself back up, dusted herself off and soldiered on to not only finish the stage but the race's final stage the very next day too as she and Catherine Williamson claimed a memorable ladies' title.
Three months down the line, Speedy has made a full recovery with the 36-year-old having recently started training again as she looks to build some form ahead of this year's top event on the international mountain biking calendar.
"I obviously was out for some time with my injuries from the Epic, but I've recovered well from those now and I'm back on the bike and really working hard towards the world champs in Pietermaritzburg in August," said Speedy.
"The fitness is starting to come back nicely and I'm slowly starting to find my form and feel good again so that's positive."
Despite having racked up UCI points from her Cape Epic victory, Speedy's subsequent absence from the sport leaves her uncertain of where she stands on the international women's ranking - a crucial factor in determining what position on the start line she will be handed in August.
"It's been an up and down year for me, so I'm actually not even sure where I stand in the rankings at the moment," said Speedy.
"I am hoping to be able to push for a top twenty position at World Champs but that's quite a big goal under the circumstances so we'll just have to see how things go over the next few weeks and during the race," she added.
Injury is not uncommon territory for Speedy, having watched her 2012 UCI MTB World Cup in Pietermaritzburg go out the window after a crash just days before the event left her with a broken wrist and out of the competition.
This however does not perturb Speedy and she is looking forward to this year's encounter, especially given it is on home soil for the first time ever.
"Even though I'm from outside of KZN I definitely still regard Cascades as home turf and I think that will be a great advantage for us. It is great that for once things will be familiar to us, not like it usually is when we head overseas.
"We ride various events there all the time so I know it well, and I'm looking forward to going back there again later this year.
"I probably won't have a chance to go down to 'Maritzburg to ride the course in the next couple of weeks, so I'll probably just look to go down a bit earlier in the week of the champs and try get familiar with things again then.
With the top riders from around the world set to be at this year's encounter, Speedy is reluctant to make any predictions as to who may take the title given the class and strength of women's cross country racing internationally this year.
"The European riders have been doing really well in the World Cups so far but any one of the top 10 from these events could take the world title on the day," said Speedy. "Or, there are some others who haven't peaked just yet and are waiting until they're a little closer to the world champs to so, so someone we haven't yet seen too much of might put their hand as well.
"Eva [Lechner] looks particularly strong at the moment but really, it's too tough to call at this stage," she said.
- Article published:
- June 30, 2013, 17:00
- Cycling News
U23 African Champ gains experience in European World Cups
With the under 23 African Cross Country Continental Championship title already under his belt, Pietermaritzburg mountain biker Brendon Davids (Team Jeep) is eager to clinch this year's South African title as well as he builds towards the year's ultimate goal - the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, which will take place in his hometown in August.
With some large assignments on the slate, including the South African Cross Country National Championships and an all-important trip to Andora for the fourth leg of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Davids is hoping some solid performances at these important events will not only give him good confidence heading into the calendar's premier showdown in two months' time but earn him vital UCI points as well.
"The start of any big race, but especially the world champs, is just so important so having a good ranking really is crucial," said Davids. "You can't necessarily win a race off the start but you definitely can lose one so to be as close as possible to the front of the grid is huge!"
"Obviously, the more points I can rack up at South African nationals and a couple other events before world champs in August, then the better for me so that's definitely a big focus at the moment.
"[African] Continental Champs was definitely the best race I've had this season and gave me a lot of confidence so, with national champs three weeks away, I'll try draw on that as much as possible as I'm working really hard to try get the double and then go to Andora with two titles under my belt," he added.
Earlier this year, on his first European mountain biking trip, Davids tackled the first and second World Cups in Albstadt, Germany and Nové Mesto, Czech Republic respectively and believes the experienced gained from the trip was hugely beneficial.
"The trip was a huge learning curve for me," said Davids. "Racing is just so different over there with the various support structure they have. It was such an eye-opening experience!"
"I got a 34th in Albstadt and then had a good start in the Czech Republic and was sitting 16th at the end of the start loop. Unfortunately I took a hit from behind which meant I had to stop to sort out my bike and if you stop for even a second over there you're just left behind so I fell all the way back to 63rd."
"I then picked up another mechanical and so fell even further back to 93rd at the end of the first lap, so to have then finished the race in 40th position I guess wasn't too bad given the circumstances," he said.
Upon his return from the Northern Hemisphere, Davids suffered a frustrating setback as he was forced off the bike for two and a half weeks due illness; however, he is now back in training after fully recovering and feels he is on the right track to achieve his world champs goals.
"I was hit really hard with sinusitis, so it's been a bit of a slow journey back to fitness over the past few weeks," said Davids.
"I've been working hard recently to get back into as best form as possible and looking at the bigger picture I'd definitely say that I'm back on the right track after the break and I'm happy with how I'm building towards August."
With the global event taking place in Davids' hometown the under star believes the home ground advantage will help balance the playing field remarkably between the local riders and their European counterparts and also believes that the memory of the late South African cycling legend Burry Stander will be a huge motivating factor for himself and some of the other South African competitors.
"Probably for the first time ever, us South African riders will have the advantage local knowledge over the Europeans, which is huge!
"We know how Cascades holds in the mud and what it's like when its dry, so I definitely think that will be a big help for those of us who are familiar with the course.
"With Burry having passed away earlier this year and the memory of him racing in the World Cups at Cascades being what many of us youngsters' dreams were formed around, I'm sure the thought of him will be extra motivation for those of us who grew up watching him!
"He was a legend and racing for him at Cascades will be part of my motivation for sure."
- Article published:
- July 2, 2013, 18:30
- Cycling News
Floros implements subtle changes to cross country track
With the first action of the 2013 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships at Cascades MTB Park in Pietermaritzburg now less than two months away, interest in the courses on which the year's Worlds will be staged is building rapidly, with the cross country tracks receiving subtle tweaks from course designer Nick Floros.
The track for the elite cross country element of the champs is not dissimilar from the one utilized for the Pietermaritzburg leg of the 2012 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, with last year's event having served as the ideal trial run ahead of this year's premier showcase, however some new changes to the already popular course have added even more value and intrigue.
"Apparently our cross country course was ranked the third best out of all the UCI MTB World Cup cross country courses in 2012 with guys giving us some really good feedback about how they enjoyed it and that the track allowed for a great showcase of cross country mountain biking as well as being hugely spectator friendly," said course designer Nick Floros.
"This is obviously great and gave us a really good foundation to work from coming into this year's World Champs.
"We've changed a couple of things for this year's event but by in large the course is very similar to the one used for last year's World Cup," he said.
With, for practicality, the two feed zones being in very close proximity to one another, each lap consists of two separate halves, or loops, with both feed zones forming the epicenter of all the action.
Most of the changes that have been made for 2013 are found in the first loop with Floros hoping they will help ease congestion and create good strategic opportunities, particularly on the closely fought opening lap, with riders set to experience the first of these comes just seconds after having crossed the start line.
"We've changed the final stretch of the start straight, just before the climb up Red Face Hill, slightly," said Floros. "Just before the climb begins we've shifted the road six or seven meters to the right of the previous track, before then turning back left slightly and aiming for Red Face Hill."
"We're hoping that by introducing the slight bend, we will give the guys a better ride in to Red Face Hill and this should hopefully reduce the bottlenecking that always occurs on the first lap at the top of the climb because now riders should be able to go into this first trail two or even three abreast.
After jostling for position at the top of Red Face Hill, riders then faced with Noogie's Knoll, Kim's Corner and Pick-Up-Stix before reaching the second, Rapid Rocks rock garden, and third, Buck Jump Alley, changes to the first loop.
"In the first half of the first lap, things are always so bunched and everyone is jam packed. With everyone being wheel to wheel early on we've tried to create as many overtaking opportunities as possible and by widening Rapid Rocks rock garden to double its original width we've given the guys who have the technical edge over the others a far better chance of overtaking her as they now have multiple lines to choose from," said Floros.
"Buck Jump Alley is new feature of the course which we have included along the river section of the route. It features a series of four consecutive rock jumps which should really see things spice up primarily in the eliminator, but will also play quite a large role in riders' tactics during the cross country race as well.
"If guys get to this point close together there could be some really exciting, interesting action that unfolds here because Buck Jump Alley offers multiple lines, meaning it will be quite a strategic point for the riders and a spectator friendly spot for the crowd as well."
With the majority of the second loop of the lap remaining relatively unaltered, the only change to this portion of the lap comes at the very end of the loop when riders make their way out of Corkscrew and into the start/finish straight.
"With us have raised the level of the area near the front of the park the start/finish straight has received a bit of a makeover as well which should make for a far smother, faster entry from the end of the second loop of the route into the straight.
"Previously riders went around a bit of a hairpin bend before dropping down whereas now they will almost be thrown into the straight," said Floros.
With lap upon lap of world class battles set to unfold throughout the widely anticipated cross country events, Floros pinpoints the build up to the legendary Tree House rock garden, known as Shale Climb, as a potentially significantly influential point along the route in the closing stages of any closely fought races.
Whilst the three terraced climb may not be all that daunting in itself, fatigue at the end of the encounter, and the resultant poor concentration, could easily result in riders missing their final, golden passing opportunity, which may well cost them dearly on the finish line.
"There is a lot of singletrack and forest road leading up to the Amphitheatre but once you're in the Amphitheatre, which then leads into Sharka's Playground and Amphitheatre Extension, passing will be very difficult," said Floros.
"Therefore, particularly towards the back end of races, Shale Climb is always an important strategic point as, after this, riders take a 90-degree right hand turn into Tree House rock garden and from there onwards it will again be very difficult to get past someone until the finish straight."
The UCI Mountain Bike World Championships will take place at The Cascades MTB park in Pietermaritzburg from August 26 to September 1, 2013, and will be preceded by the UCI MTB Masters World Championships August 21 to 25.
Cross country course description
The cross country course's start straight is 350m long, with a short, sharp climb called Red Face Hill at the end. On the first lap there's a bottleneck on this left hand turn.
After Red Face Hill, riders meander on forest track to Noogies Knoll, which starts with a hairpin right into the first big climb of the first loop. The bottom section is short, but it's one of the steepest sections of the track, with five switchbacks taking riders to the top.
This leads into Kim's Corner - a short, technical descending section with a number of step-like drops.
A forest road and two short sections of singletrack take riders into the top section of Pick Up Stix. This consists of a left berm into a right berm into a short off-camber section, which has two-step downs that are positioned on a steep slope.
After Pick-Up-Stix, some flowing, descending singletrack leads into the top of Rapid Rocks, a hand-made rock garden and the most technical section on the first loop.
Riders then cross a stream down to a new section called Buckjump Alley, four rocky mounds of soil with multiple lines. After Buckjump Alley, riders will enter Feed/Tech Zone 1 before starting the second half of the course.
Riders face the largest climb of the course up to Switch Back singletrack. The first portion of Switch Back is contoured, with the second half made up of short and tight switchbacks.
The track continues to climb into the top of The Amphitheatre, the highest point and one of the signature features of the track. This is made up of switchbacks, berms, bridges rocks and drop-offs.
The course then goes up a short, sharp climb to the top of Sharka's Playground, where riders have three options of either a bull run, or one of two chicken runs. The bull run consists of a partial-spiral log staircase, and the first chicken run goes past the bull run on the right, off a small step-down, over small gap jump, into a sharp left, and drops down into the main track. The second chicken run is the same as the first, but instead of the gap jump it goes left, over some log rollers.
The track descends down the Amphitheatre Extension to the bottom of Shale's Climb, which goes into Tree House Rock Garden. This has three main lines through (or over) the rocks. Riders uncomfortable with this obstacle can choose a B-line, taking them around the section.
There is a short portion of singletrack between Tree House Rock Garden and the Corkscrew, which itself is a steep, bermed descent into a short, rocky section.
From the bottom of the Corkscrew it's 150m to Feed/Tech Zone 2, and a completed lap. On the last lap, riders continue past the feed/tech zone to the finish.
- Article published:
- July 3, 2013, 12:00
- Cycling News
Süss and Leumann expected to duel in women's championship
BMC's Lukas Flückiger will challenge world champion Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) at the Swiss cross country national championships in Lenzerheide this weekend. The women's race will most likely offer a duel between Esther Süss and Katrin Leumann. There are many top contenders in the eliminator sprint format.
As far as the elite men's category is concerned, the podium of the Swiss championships will perhaps offer the same winners that will later this year be present on the award ceremony photo of the world championships. Or the other way around: Last year's World medalists might just as well enter the podium in Lenzerheide on Sunday.
There is no doubt whatsoever that current world champion Nino Schurter (Scott-Swisspower) is the top favorite in the men's race. Schurter has been the world's dominant rider during the first half of the season.
"The national championships is not one of the big goals of the season, but of course I would like to do a good race so close to my home. I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces along the course," said Schurter, the 27-year-old Olympic silver medalist, who lives in Chur, less than 30 minutes from Lenzerheide.
In Schurter's opinion, Lukas Flückiger will be his main rival for the Swiss title. Last September, the man from Ochlenberg stood next to Schurter on the world championships podium in second position, and he can also look back on a successful, even the best spring season of his career. Due to bad luck in the initial phase of the European championships race in Bern, he finished in fourth position, just barely missing a medal.
Looking back, Flückiger sees the European championships race as an encouraging experience. "In Bern, we have seen that it is possible to beat Nino. He is the favorite, but if I do not lose too much time during the first 20 minutes, then I'll take my chances. For this purpose, of course, I need to have a great day," said Flückiger, who is positive about his chances to carry off his first championship jersey in the elite class. In Bern, his French BMC teammate Julien Absalon showed how to beat Schurter, and his example is Flückiger's guiding light.
Lukas Flückiger considers his brother Mathias to be a potential rival who could make life more difficult even for him on the 4.2-kilometre course with its two steep climbs. The world bronze medalist from Leimiswil was sick on the weekend of the European Championships, but had shown a week earlier at the World Cup in Val di Sole in fourth place that he has world-class form. Stöckli team rider Mathias Flückiger was third in Balgach in 2012, behind Schurter und Schurter's teammate Florian Vogel (Rapperswil-Jona).
For Vogel, the current season has not been quite so good, but he has a chance to win a medal along with Fabian Giger, Thomas Litscher and Martin Fanger - all of them top ten riders on World Cup level.
The women's fight for the title will most likely result in a duel between Katrin Leumann and Esther Süss. Leumann is still handicapped with swollen vocal cords, with no clarifying diagnosis available. Nevertheless Leumann enjoys a successful season. "I would really like to take the jersey back home one more time," said Leumann.
"At least in the beginning, Kathrin Stirnemann will compete with us, whereas Nathalie Schneitter is currently a bit of a grab bag: We'll have to see how things are turning out for her," said Leumann, who was national champion in 2004, 2008 and 2009.
Just like the 31-year-old Leumann, Esther Süss also enters her fifth race weekend in a row. Therefore Süss, Bronze medalist at the marathonwWorld championships, is relying on recovery prior to the national championships. "Definitely, winning the title is my goal," said Süss who won the championship race in Gränichen in 2010.
"The Swiss championships are very important for me, especially because I had to go without the world marathon title this year. I'm curious to see how I will recover after the four and a half hour race at the marathon Worlds."
Stirnemann as well as Schneitter are keen on getting good results in Lenzerheide, because these results will be taken into account for the world championships nominations.
In the men's U23-category, Mathias Stirnemann and Reto Indergand are said to be the favorites. Andri Frischknecht has been dubbed an underdog.
Jolanda Neff is the defending champion and the favorite in the U23 women's race, Andrea Waldis is her strongest rival.
Alessandra Keller (Stans), who placed third at the European championships, seems to have the best chances in the female juniors' competition. In the junior men's category, the race seems to be quite open. Recently, Nicolas Fischer (Solothurn) has moved into the foreground.
The championship weekend will start off with the eliminator sprint format presented on Friday. Litscher and Neff are the defending champions. The sprint course offers a considerable elevation gain of 50 meters, which may account for a number of surprises. And there are many ambitious competitors.
Apart from Multivan-Merida's powerful rider Thomas Litscher, it is none other than eliminator world champion Ralph Naef who seems to be regaining momentum after surgical operations in spring. Since the beginning of this season Näf rides for team BMC.
"It would be nice to win the sprint title again, but in Switzerland there are very many fast sprinters," said Litscher, who was somewhat restrained after having suffered a major disappointment at the European championships.
However, the Swiss line-up offers quite some more hot candidates: among others EC bronze medalist Sepp Freiburghaus, Stefan Peter, Marcel Wildhaber and last year's third placed Nicola Rohrbach.
World championships sprint silver medalist Neff and Stirnemann (Graenichen), currently second in the overall World Cup ranking, are the names most often mentioned in the women's category.
"On Friday, for me there is only one goal and that is the jersey," said Stirnemann, who was second in both the European championships and in every World Cup sprint so far this year.
Besides Neff, European championships bronze medalist Ramona Forchini from Wattwil, Linda Indergand from Silenen and Andrea Waldis are serious competitors for Stirnemann.