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Julien Absalon (BMC Mountainbike Racing Team) leading Mathias Fluckiger (Stöckli Pro Team) and Marco Aurelio Fontana (Cannondale Factory Racing)
Round 2 of Bundesliga International mountain bike series this weekend
Current and former Olympic champions Julie Bresset (BH SR Suntour-KMC) and Julien Absalon (BMC) will lead the line-up at this weekend's round 2 of the MTB-Bundesliga International at Bike the Rock in Heubach, Germany.
World Cup leader Jolanda Neff (Rabo/Liv) and Maxime Marotte (BH SR Suntour-KMC) are also among the top riders expected to start.
Nine of the top 15 riders in the men's World Cup will race in Heubach, the perfect warm-up for next weekend's World Cup round 3 in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. Absalon and Marotte are number one and two while José Hermida (Multivan-Merida) is number four.
Daniel McConnell and Sergio Mantecon Gutierrez (both Trek Factory Racing), Fabian Giger (Giant Pro XC), Stephane Tempier (BH SR Suntour-KMC) and Max Plaxton (Cannondale Factory Racing) are also among numerous top contenders in the UCI HC-category race.
German champion Moritz Milatz (BMC Racing) won in 2012 and he is Germany's best hope for the victory this year. Regarding the following two European World Cups in Nove Mesto and Albstadt, Milatz is convinced that "riding in Heubach is always good to build up my form".
Absalon, victorious in Heubach in 2010, likes the "old school" course with the 1.8-kilometer climb and the furious 1,5-kilometer downhill. "It suits me and the downhill is really fun to ride," the two-time Olympic champion said.
Jolanda Neff, fifth in 2013, will be at the start with Liv Giant teammate and last year's winner Maja Wloszczowska and Julie Bresset. All three are good climbers and technical riders.
"Of course, the following World Cups and the European champs are more important races, but I don't think that with a number plate on my handlebar I'm able to take a race easy," said Wloszczowska. "I don't think that any rider can do that. It's still great event, an HC race - a lot to win."
After a difficult winter with some health problems, Wloszczowska is getting more optimistic about her form. Regarding this weekend's race, she said, "I like the whole event very much. Especially because of the spectators. It doesn't matter what the weather is - they are there and cheer! That's amazing."
Fortunately, weather shouldn't be an issue as forecast is looking good as of this writing.
Two-time marathon world champion Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing) and Germany's Adelheid Morath (Sabine Spitz-Haibike) are climbing sensations, both, but a bit less competitive in the downhill.
Morath was second last year, behind Wloszczowska. "It's my favourite race, but in Heubach you don't get any gifts. I like it to have such a great line up," said Morath.
Among the top women, Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory Racing) is another one to watch as well as rising Australian star Rebecca Henderson (Trek Factory Racing).
In Saturday's eliminator race, world champions Engen and Paul van der Ploeg should be the riders to beat. New German national champ Simon Stiebjahn (Team Bulls) is another to watch.
Bike the Rock gets its name from the ruins of Burg Rosenstein at the top of the course. The Rosenstein is called "The Rock" by locals. The race started in 2001 as a festival, in which even the mayor took part - and crashed.