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Eventual winner Jolanda Neff
Giger a favorite at the BMC Racing Cup opener
Round one of the 2014 BMC Racing Cup will start this weekend in Buchs and is expected to draw some 800 racers, including a talented elite field. In addition to U23 world champion Jolanda Neff (Live Pro XC) and Eva Lechner (Colnago Sudtirol), who is the leader of the UCI world ranking, the women's field includes three more top-10 riders. In the men's race, Fabian Giger (Giant Pro XC) will try to substantiate his excellent start to the season, fighting strong competition like Thomas Litscher (Multivan Merida) and German champion Moritz Milatz (BMC).
It is an established tradition that Buchs, alternating with Schaan, is the host for the Swiss season opener.
The women's start list includes a fair number of world-class riders, five of which are to be found among the top-10 in UCI world ranking. First and foremost: number one Eva Lechner (Colnago Pro) from Italy. This winter she won the bronze medal at the cyclo-cross world championships. After taking a post-'cross season break, she'll be returning to competition on her mountain bike. It's impossible to guess her form and how she will stack up against three-time Olympic medalist Sabine Spitz and against Spitz' Haibike teammate Adelheid Morath, let alone Neff.
Neff has celebrated an outstanding start into the season by winning two Sunshine Cup races in Cyprus. Therefore she is considered to be the favourite. For Neff, Buchs is almost a home race. The 21-year-old will be defending a long series of successes Buchs. Every time she was at the start in Buchs, she has won: in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010, although two years ago, she was ill.
"I like the race course very much, and I am really curious if I can continue this [winning] series. In Cyprus, the level of racing was quite high and it 'super cool' to start like that into the new season," said Neff. "I hope this will continue."
However, her last victory in the BMC Racing Cup was two and a half years ago in Engelberg where she celebrated her 50th victory in the national Swiss series. Will she get number 51 on Sunday?
Apart from Spitz, Morath and Lechner, Neff's main rivals in Buchs will be Swiss champion Katrin Leumann, Austrian champion Elisabeth Osl (both Team Ghost), and Kathrin Stirnemann (Team Sabine Spitz-Haibike).
Another interesting female competitor will be Sweden's Jenny Rissveds who won last year's European eliminator championships in Bern and is now a member of team Scott-Odlo, the team of world champion Nino Schurter.
Schurter himself will be absent as he has gone to South Africa for the Cape Epic. But his teammate Florian Vogel will represent Scott-Odlo. Vogel has shown strong appearances both in Cyprus as well as in Rivera last Sunday, and he plans to make his next major step in Buchs.
BMC Racing Team's Moritz Milatz has similar plans. "Things should be even better in Buchs than they already were last Sunday. I am very optimistic and I am really looking forward to this race."
Thomas Litscher also showed a very impressive performance on Monte Tamaro last weekend: The Multivan-Merida rider was third behind Nino Schurter and Julien Absalon.
But the 4.1km race course in Buchs may just as well suit Giger the best. Three weeks ago, Giger very convincingly won the four-day Afxentia stage race in Cyprus against high-level competition.
"After Cyprus, I continued with some good training and I am still happy about my level of fitness," said Giger. "My goal on Sunday is to reach the podium. But if everything works out alright, I would love to fight for victory. I am looking forward to my first race in Switzerland this year."