European marathon champion Esther Süss (Wheeler-iXS) and two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon (BMC) will be leading the elite fields at the fourth round of the BMC Racing Cup in Gränichen, Switzerland. Taking place one week before the World Cup in Val di Sole and two weeks before the European Championships in Bern, the star-studded hors categorie competition will have the function of a status report. .
"Of course I would prefer to win. It is something very special to win in front of a home crowd, and it would be extremely motivating considering the European Championships in Bern," said Süss.
"Sure, a championship medal may have higher significance, but emotionally, it is as important as the European Championship for me." Süss is a member of the organizing racing club, which is putting on the 21st edition of the event.
With the exception of the European Championships in Bern, Gränichen's cross country race offers the highest amount of prize money and world ranking points available in Switzerland this year. Two weeks prior to the European Championship on the "Gurten", it is also an important test event, not only for the Swiss mountain bikers.
Süss, winner of the all three previous BMC Cup races this season, will have to face a considerable level of competition from domestic riders in Gränichen. Katrin Leumann (Ghost Factory Racing), third in the World Cup opener in Albstadt, and U23 world champion Jolanda Neff (Giant Pro XC) will most likely be her fiercest rivals, apart from German Adelheid Morath (Sabine Spitz-Haibike). However, on the only slightly altered course, last year's winner Süss will try to use her home advantage.
For the first time this season, World Champion Nino Schurter (Scott Swisspower) will not be at the start in the BMC Racing Cup. Since the fight for the front positions in the overall standings of the World Cup is very tight, he is concentrating on the upcoming round in Val di Sole. Currently, he is training in Tuscany.
Therefore, the only way to win in Graenichen will be to get past Julien Absalon. So far BMC rider has been on an equal footing with Schurter in every race, although Schurter has won the first three BMC Cup races.
Absalon will be the leader of a strong BMC contingent, which includes Lukas Flückiger. Finishing third at the World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, Flückiger has proven that he is in great shape.
"I believe that I have stabilized my fitness level. Two weeks after the World Cup, you never know exactly how your form will develop, but my relaxation has always been superb," said Flückiger.
With the preparation for the European Championships on his mind, he will also participate in the road race GP Aargau on Thursday. "Perhaps this will not be optimal preparation for Gränichen, but I have never really had any problems with it in the past. Julien has to be the favourite, but of course I will seek my oportunities too," said Flückiger:
"I have always done well on the race course in Gränichen. The terrain, the topography, it all suits me."
Besides Absalon there are some more promising candidates for the podium, including Thomas Litscher (Multivan-Merida) who was fourth at the World Cup in Nove Mesto; Mathias Flückiger (Stöckli Pro); Fabian Giger (Giant Pro XC) and former world champion Jose Antonio Hermida (Multivan-Merida).