The Felt Ötztal X-Bionic World Cup Team will include Thomas Litscher, Paul Van der Ploeg, Adelheid Morath, Karl Markt, Blaza Klemencic and Simon Scheiber for 2012. The team started its season with a series of wins at the end of January.
At the team's first "official training camp", some of the riders competed in the Club La Santa 4-Stage race in Lanzarote. Under 23 world champion Litscher came out on top, leaving no doubt as to his winning form after he took every stage and the overall. Close behind him was his teammate Markt, finishing second overall.
In the women's race, Morath race strongly to win the first stage and make it to the podium on days two, three and four. Morath finished third overall after battling it out with overall winner and marathon world champion Annika Langvad.
Van der Ploeg has made the jump to the elite ranks for 2012. The Australian under 23 national champion, who lives in Europe during the Australian winter, and two-time Oceania champion is already busy racing in the Australian National Series events Down Under. In recent weeks, he came within two seconds of winning the Wildside MTB race in Tasmania, even after popping his shoulder out in a crash on day 3.
Morath for Germany has already been to an Olympics for Germany - in Beijing, and she is hoping to qualify to go again this summer in London.
"Beijing was my first Games, and of course, I was intrigued by the gigantic effort, the fans and the attention. All emotions, all the charms and the hustle and bustle were part of it," said Morath. "As a rookie, it was very difficult to concentrate fully on the race. With London, I know what to expect from Beijing. I personally like the Olympics and tackling the associated pressure."
Under 23 world champion Litscher of Switzerland was part of the silver medal winning team relay at the 2011 Worlds and finished third in the U23 race at the European championships. He drew the attention of many elite racers by winning the Offenburg and Dalby World Cup eliminators last season.
Blaza Klemencic of Slovenia was national champion in 2010 and runner-up in 2011. She finished seventh at the Offenburg World Cup in 2011 and fourth at Windham in 2010.
Markt made the top three at the Olympic Test Event in 2011 and got a top 10 at the World Cup in Offenburg last year.
Scheiber made it as far as the quarter finals in the eliminator World Cup at Nove Mesto in 2011 and was third in Austria's cross country championships.
The Felt Ötztal X-Bionic World Cup Team is getting ready for what will likely be a high pressure Olympic mountain bike season as its athletes try to qualify for their respective national Olympic teams. In 2012, the team will be represented at the World Cups, the Oceania Championships, the European Championships, the national championships and the Worlds.
2012 Felt Ötztal X-Bionic World Cup Team
Paul Van der Ploeg