Ralph Näf, who finished third in last year's World Cup and won the world marathon championship in 2006, will be joined by Olympic champion Sabine Spitz in the ranks of the favorites for the Swiss national series opener in Schaan on Sunday. Spitz is experienced in Schaan; she won there two years ago.
The Swiss series is running under the name of Racer Bikes Cup for 2009; in previous years, it was known as the Swiss Power Cup.
This round will be missing some of the usual stars, including Christoph Sauser, Nino Schurter and Florian Vogel, who are training in South Africa in preparation for next weekend's World Cup opener.
Näf is taking a different approach to his World Cup preparation. "I want to win in Schaan in order to give myself the necessary self-confidence for the World Cup opener in South Africa. Jürg Graf and Martin Gujan are also in good form and it will be a tough race," said Näf, who added that there is something special about racing in him home country in front of his fans.
When the race was last held in Schaan, Julien Absalon defeated Frederik Kessiakoff and Florian Vogel.
In the women's race, Spitz and Petra Henzi will be tough to beat, but some of the younger riders will give it their best.
"I'm looking forward to racing on the fast and exciting track," said Henzi, who last raced here in 2007, although she was then suffering from some health problems.
"It is certainly not just a duel between me and Sabine Spitz," said Henzi. "Also, it's not like the young racers have slept through the winter, so I'm convinced it will be a very interesting race for all of us. For example, two years ago, Sabine Spitz won with just 20 seconds over Russian Irina Kalentieva." Sabrina Enaux was third.
Racer Bikes Cup 2009
April 5: Schaan
April 19: Lugano/Tesserete
May 10: Solothurn
June 7: Winterthur
June 28: Plaffeien
August 23: Muttenz/Basel (finals)