The next round of the Racer Bikes Cup in Solothurn will be a part of the Swiss Velo Bike Festival Days, which last year drew more than 17,500 people. Nino Schurter, 2010 World Cup overall champion and winner of the first 2011 World Cup round, will face tough competition like Florian Vogel, the Flückiger brothers, Martin Gujan, Christoph Sauser, Patrick Gallati and German champion Milatz Moritz.
A tight battle is also expected in the women's race between last year's winner Esther Süss, who is the marathon world champion and Olympic champion Sabine Spitz. Irina Kalentieva is another favorite while Swiss stars Katrin Leumann and Nathalie Schneitter and Italian Eva Lechner are also podium contenders.
The festivities will kick off with a short format race on Friday evening. Schurter and Dario Cologna will go head to head in the sprint distance event. Last year, two Swiss racers won this event: Severin Disch and Nathalie Schneitter. Racers will compete a time trial over two laps.
On Saturday, Schurter will be targeting his fifth victory of the season in the cross country race. He's already won Racer Bikes Cup rounds in Schaan and Tesserete and the World Cup Opener. Last weekend, he took top honors in Houffalize.
"Events such as the Bike Festival Days are very important for me because I get to compete with the world's elite," said Schurter. "So I get to know more about my form and how strong the competition is. Of course, it would be nice if I could bring home a victory this year, but the competition will be tough."
"Solothurn is a very special race given the high proportion of asphalt - a bit like a road race," said Milatz. "It will be important to be among the frontrunners at the beginning, as the pace from the start will surely be very high. I am highly motivated, after all, this is a home race for our BMC team. I will try to beat Nino and Florian, but it will be difficult against these world class racers."
Schurter's Scott Swisspower teammate Vogel suffered an accident in training two weeks ago, but is back to training pain-free this week. Although he is coming off a training deficit, Vogel is looking forward to the race. "I'm not going to Solothurn with the intention to win, although after two second places the last two years, a victory here would certainly be beautiful. Nino is in clear favorite now. But the others - like the Flückigers and Martin Gujan - should not be forgotten," said Vogel.
Last year's Solothurn women's winner Süss will have her hands full against Spitz, European champion Leumann, former world champion Irina Kalentieva and local favorite Schneitter.
"I'll use the home course advantage to my favor as I race in front of my fans," said Schneitter. Her fan club will be out in force cheering their favorite.