The 15th edition of the Craft Bike TransAlp is drawing several international top teams including Team Bulls, Topeak Ergon Racing, Multivan Merida and Stoeckli Pro Team. Reigning champions Urs Huber and Konny Looser will return to defend their title at the mountain bike stage race, which will start on July 14 and run through July 21.
In 2011, the two Swiss mountain bike pros surprised all by winning not only four out of eight stages at their first shared TransAlp participation but also the whole race with a lead of some nine minutes after 670 kilometers and more than 21,000 meters in elevation gain.
"We want to repeat the win," said 26-year-old marathon specialist Huber, who is the current Swiss marathon champion.
"That's the goal for sure. Everything else would be a disappointing result," said European U23 marathon champion Looser, 23.
They realize it will be difficult to meet those expectations.
"There were many riders who didn't expect that I - being pretty young - could persevere with the high pace over the whole distance and eight days," said Looser. "I guess we proved them wrong. But due to this, no one will allow us to pull away this time."
To be the number one again will require proper training. Although both note that they are full on target, Huber lost some vital training time at the end of April and the beginning of May due to a flu.
"It's been important that I had enough time to recover, which I actually did."
Looser admits that he is a little bit out of shape right now. "I'm still waiting for my peak form. Although it's getting better and better, it seems that I can't put it all together in the races."
Still, both have enough time to gain the necessary stamina and fitness which will be important for being able to win the TransAlp again; all the more so as the battle for the crown is estimated to be a tough and close one this year.
"Team balance is all that matters," said Huber. "We definitely benefited from being equivalent. In every other team there was at least one team member who faltered at least once. But although I reckon that the most top teams won't show any weakness this time, we will be hard to beat this year again."