Cross country world champion Jose Antonio Hermida will make his 2011 season debut at the inaugural Andalucía Bike Race (ABR), a mountain bike stage race in Spain from February 27 to March 4. Hermida's Multivan Merida teammate Ralph Näf, a former marathon world champion, will make the trip from Switzerland to compete with him on a duo men's squad.
"Races with several days of competition are ideal in this part of the season," said Hermida of the early season fitness-chasing opportunity. "I love these types of events, but once the real cross country season starts, it is difficult to manage both types.
"I have attended the Cape Epic several years, and it has always helped me to increase my level before the World Cups. For sure, the ABR will be a great experience as well, being held in an area of Spain with ideal temperatures for this time of year."
Hermida was selected as an ambassador of the race for its first two years. "It is an honor to be chosen as an ambassador for the race. For my part, I will try to be part of an interesting competition and help to promote the race's name, both nationally and internationally.
"Seeing the infrastructure and excitement of the organization, for sure the ABR will grow quickly," he said.
More than 150 racers have signed up for the brand new event including Australian Greg Saw (Proteinfabrikken-KTM), Czechs Pavel Boudny and Kristian Hynek (both Ceska Sporitelna-Specialized Team) and Martin Horak and Tomas Vokrouhlik (both BMC-Factor).
Vuelta a España winner Roberto Heras and Catalan Marc Trayter, Orbea teammates Rubén Ruzafa and Iñaki Lejarreta and Alejandro Diaz de la Peña and Luis Leao Pinto (Hispano-Luso) will also be competing.
Great Britain will be represented by Ben Thomas and Josh Ibett (Team Torq), while Benjamin Justesen and Johnni Nielsen (Danish T-Bikes) will team up from Denmark.
In the women's category, Sandra Santanyes is the Spanish favorite, but she'll be challenged by veteran endurance racers like TransAlp and Cape Epic winner Kristine Nørgaard, Brit Sally Bigham, German Ivonne Kraft, Portuguese Celina Carpinteiro and New Zealander Jennifer Smith, who will race together with the American Kathy Sherwin for Giant Orbea.
The race will visit the provinces of Córdoba and Jaén for six days
For more information on the new race, visit www.andaluciabikerace.com.