On the morning of July 17, the start gun will signal the kick-off of the 13th annual TransAlp in Füssen, Germany. 550 teams of two will hit the 600 kilometres of roads and trails headed for Riva del Garda, Italy. Racers will face more than 19,500 metres of climbing dispersed over eight stages.
Defending champions, the BiXS iXS Pro Team, will aim to repeat their victory of last year. Switzerland’s Lukas Buchli and Thomas Stoll took over the lead in 2009 after stage five and kept it until the end.
"For us it's all about racing a good TransAlp. We are optimistic to achieve this goal," said Buchli. The 30-year-old, who will celebrate his 31st birthday on the first stage, added that his team is not feeling as much pressure as last season.
"In 2009, we entered our first TransAlp with the goal to win. As we accomplished our purpose, the situation is much easier for us this summer."
However, to be in contention for a back-to-back win, both mountain bikers, who are racing together for their third consecutive year, have been preparing diligently for this year's race. "We pedalled six TransAlp stages within five days from Imst onward during last week. It was tough, but also very important so we will be well matched." It also means that Buchli and his 27-year-old teammate now know the route well.
They are well aware of their competition. "We have great respect for Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm. It's impossible to offset their experience," said Buchli. The two German veterans, who were victorious in 2007 and 2008, were defeated last year after Platt had to quit the race due to injury. However, their Team Bull teammates French Champion Thomas Dietsch and Tim Böhme still managed a third place finish in 2009.
Team Bulls often fields two squads at mountain bike stage races. The advantage is in the numbers. "Having two teams in the competition is a good backup - you won't see a team making it through all eight stages without some technical problems."
The 2008 Swiss Champion also lists the Multivan Merida Biking Team as strong contenders. 2005 Marathon European Champion and 2005 ECS runner-up Hannes Genze and Andreas Kugler were in the lead last year for several days and finished in second at less than three minutes down.
In addition, there is another Swiss pairing, which may make the podium. Thomas Zahnd, an experienced TransAlp rider, who finished as runner-up in 2006, is racing with Under 23 ace Konny Looser as Team Stöckli-Craft.
Other favorites include Italy's Marzio Deho, the 2008 TransRockies winner, who will compete with compatriot Mirko Celestino.
In the women's race, sisters Kristine and Anna-Sofie Norgaard are the most likely winners of the title. However, the Danish dynamite duo of Rothaus-Cube - Danièle Troesch and Katrin Neumann - may be up to the challenge of getting to the top step of the podium.
In the mixed classification, former Finnish European Champion Pia Sundstedt and Craft-Rocky Mountain teammate Daniel Gathof, as well as Rothaus-Cube riders Milena Landtwing and Heiko Gutmann are the main favorites.