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Mountain Bike World Cup: 10 must-know cross country racers

Tales from the peloton, April 10, 2009

The 2009 UCI Mountain Bike World Cup will kick off this weekend, April 10-12, in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, with cross country, downhill and four cross disciplines. It will be the first time in World Cup history that a triple event is held on African soil.

The South African World Cup is the first event of 2009 to draw all the favorites to once place to race head-to-head. While the stars have been quietly logging training time and making race appearances to test their fitness in rounds of the various national series, they have yet to see how they stack up against each other this season.

It's been a long winter; the last World Cup was held in September of 2008 in Schladming, Austria, so Cyclingnews has picked out 10 cross country riders - five men and five women - to watch as the World Cup season gets under way.

We predict you'll see their names again and again this season.

There are so many talented racers on the World Cup circuit that it's impossible to pick just ten. Therefore, honorable mention also goes to the following men: Adam Craig (USA), Ralf Naef (Swi), Florian Vogel (Swi), Lukas Flückiger (Swi), Jose Antonio Hermida (Spa) and Todd Wells (USA); and the following women: Irina Kalentieva (Rus), Lene Byberg (Nor), Mary McConneloug (USA), Tereza Hurikova (Cze) and Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (Nor). Cyclingnews predicts you'll also see these riders logging outstanding performances at or near the front of the World Cup field in 2009.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.