The winners of the last four Olympic Games - Bart Brentjens (1996), Julien Absalon (2004 and 2008) and Miguel Martinez (2000) - are among the top mountain bikers planning to attend the Maremma Cup from February 27 to March 7. The race is being organized by still another mountain bike star, the now retired former World Champion Thomas Frischknecht.
Because mountain biking was included for the first time in the Olympic Games in 1996, this means all the male Olympic mountain bike champions will be competing at the same event.
In its second edition of the Maremma Cup will differ from the first. The two headline events, both cross country races, will happen on Sundays, February 28 and March 7 respectively. The opening race will double as round one of the Internazionali d'Italia, the Italian Cycling Federation's national series.
The partnership of the Maremma Cup organizers and the Italian Federation is no accident given aspirations of World Cup status, for perhaps as early as 2011. Grosseto, in Maremma, is being considered as a possible host.
The Maremma Cup will also include four other so called "kermesse" races in historic city centers. On Saturdays, February 27 and March 6, racers will take to the streets of the Old Town Massa Marittima for two of the kermesses. Another will be on Tuesday, March 2 in Porto Santo Stefano. And a fourth is set for Thursday, March 4 in Grosseto, in Piazza Duomo, on a fast and flat course. New for this year, participation in the kermesses is open to women, too.
A new "Flyer Race" for electric mountain bikes will also be part of the Cup on March 7 and a race for industry folks like managers, mechanics and engineers is slated for March 5.
Nino Schurter, Florian Vogel, Jose Antonio Hermida, Ralf Naef and Leonardo Hector Paez are also on the preliminary start list along with Italians Marco Fontana and Martino Fruet. Eva Lechner, Nathalie Schneitter and Daniela Campuzano are expected for the women's race.
For more information on the Maremma Cup, visit www.maremmacup.com.