The German International MTB Bundesliga series opens in Lennestadt- Saalhausen this Sunday, May 11. Manuel Fumic (Cannondale), Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory Racing) and two Olympic champions Gunn Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan Merida) and Sabine Spitz (Haibike) are expected to line up for the start.
Fresh off her win in Haiming, Austria last weekend,Dahle-Flesjaa is among the favorites for the women.
"My form is very good. But I have to do races like this, if I want to have high performance at the World Cup races," said Dahle Flesjaa.
Spitz has two top-six finishes at the World Cup so far this season, but she is reserved when it comes to her ambitions for Saalhausen. While Dahle Flesjaa opted to skip the trip to the Australia World Cup, Spitz is coming off re-adapting to local climate and time zone.
"The journey home from Cairns was quite difficult," said Spitz. "I felt limp for days."
"Riders, who decided to stay in Europe, of course, should be better prepared for Saalhausen," said the 42-year-old, who is the oldest World Cup winner of all time after her victory in Andorra in July of 2013.
A third rider from the top six of the World Cup opener will also be at the starting line in Saalhausen. Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory Team) is also the defending champion of the MTB Bundesliga.
She, too, has had trouble recovering from the jetlag, but was more optimistic. "I like the race in Saalhausen. It is always fun to ride there, I love it. The course is a bit different. In Saalhausen, you stay in a group longer than usual," said Engen.
Adelheid Morath is another woman to watch as is Belgian champion Githa Michiels (KMC - Trek), who rode a surprisingly strong race, finishing second in Haiming behind Dahle Flesjaa. And last but not least, Slovenian Blaza Klemencic (Felt Feenstra Kendra) will be at the start line. Neither she nor Michiels made the trip to Cairns.
Fumic the favorite in the men's race
One of the biggest favorites for the victory in the men's race is Manuel Fumic. The Cannondale rider has had a good rest after the World Cup in Cairns.
"I want to use Saalhausen to get back into the rhythm. I wouldn't call it a training race, but rather a preparation for the next important races," said Fumic, referring to the upcoming World Cup races in Nove Mesto and Albstadt.
Matthias Wengelin from Sweden is also one of the biggest competitors expected at the start line. Last year in September, the Swedish Champion finished in the top six in the World Cup finals in Hafjell.
Dutchman Rudi van Houts is another potential challenger for Fumic.
German eliminator nationals on Saturday
The German eliminator national championships will take place in Saalhausen on Saturday, May 10. The overall World Cup runner-up from last year, Simon Gegenheimer (Rose Vaujany) is the defending champion.
Nadine Rieder (AMG-Rotwild) and Veronika Brüchle (Stevens) are expected to dominate in the women's race, and Sabine Spitz appears on the registration list, too.