The Swiss national mountain bike series is drawing elite mountain bikers from far beyond Switzerland for its opening round in Schaan this weekend. Olympians, world champions, European champions and national champions galore are on the start list for round 1 of the BMC Racing Cup.
The cross country race will be held in Liechtenstein's Church for the fourth time. Many will be using it as an early season test in the lead up to the first World Cup in Albstadt, Germany in mid-May.
The men's silver and bronze medallists from the Olympics, Nino Schurter and Marco Fontana, are among the favorites.
"I am coming from the eight-day stage race Cape Epic in South Africa," said Schurter. "It was a great workout, but maybe I'm a little tired from that multi-day load. Still, I will try to deliver a perfect race. I'm hoping for a podium finish."
Schurter won the last Swiss Cup event in Schaan in 2011 and was complimentary in his comments about the course.
Other favorites include Christoph Sauser, who is fresh off winning the Cape Epic, Schurter's teammate Florian Vogel, Fabian Giger, Lukas Flückiger and Mathias Flückiger, Manuel Fumic and Moritz Milatz. The later just won the German Bundesliga series opener this past weekend.
Among the women, past world champion Irina Kalentieva will battle former European champion Katrin Leumann, Olympian Esther Süss and reigning Swiss champion Sarah Koba. Adelheid Morath is also riding strong as she proved by winning the Bundesliga opener.
"We look forward to a great sporting event with world-class riders and a unique setting," said race director Thomas Hollenstein, looking forward to the start of the BMC Racing Cup.
Over 8,000 fans are expected over the course of the weekend of racing. The elite riders will compete on Sunday.