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

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Switzerland's Nino Schurter

Switzerland's Nino Schurter (Image credit: Greg Chang)
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Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB)

Georgia Gould (Luna Women's MTB) (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net)
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Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis)

Geoff Kabush (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis) (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net)
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Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB)

Catherine Pendrel (Luna Women's MTB) (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net)
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South African champion Burry Stander

South African champion Burry Stander (Image credit: MTN National Series)
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The German national anthem plays for Sabine Spitz

The German national anthem plays for Sabine Spitz (Image credit: Casey Gibson)
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World Champion Christoph Sauser

World Champion Christoph Sauser (Image credit: www.flipper.co.za)
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Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis)

Marie-Helene Premont (Rocky Mountain/Maxxis) (Image credit: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net)
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Julien Absalon (Orbea)

Julien Absalon (Orbea) (Image credit: Team Orbea)
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Margarita Fullana (Massi)

Margarita Fullana (Massi) (Image credit: Sergio Suarez)

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.