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Engen, Ilias will return to Cyprus Sunshine Cup

2009 Cyprus Sunshine Cup winners Alexandra Engen (Sweden) and Periklis Ilias (Greece)

2009 Cyprus Sunshine Cup winners Alexandra Engen (Sweden) and Periklis Ilias (Greece) (Image credit: Armin Küstenbrück)

With three weeks to go, the 2010 Cyprus Sunshine Cup is drawing a cast of favorites including the winners of the overall Cup from last year: Alexandra Engen of Sweden and Periklis Ilias from Greece.

The young Engen suprised many last season by winning all three rounds, but she followed up her early season success with strong performances throughout the year including winning a silver medal at the Under 23 cross country World Championships and the Under 23 European championships.

Engen will appear on the start line in the jersey of her new team, Rothaus-Cube. She will again use the series to prepare for her season. "My main intention is to get good preparation and a nice start for a long and exciting season," she said, "but it would be fun to defend the title."

"I like the trails, the organisation and the atmosphere in the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, and it gives me a lot of joy to be there," said the 21-year-old Engen.

In the men's Cup, defending champ Ilias will return to the sunny island to race with his ISD teammates. His competition will include Ukraine's Sergiy Rysenko and Swizterlands' Christoph Bischof. Recently a new father, Emil Lingren, who won two rounds last year, will make the journey from Sweden for some more training and racing.

Some of the riders will be using the Cyprus Sunshine Cup to prepare for the Cape Epic in South Africa such as 2009 winners Stefan Sahm and Karl Platt (Team Bulls).

The Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) is backing the Sunshine Cup. It expects lots of riders to make the trip to the island as cycling is the nation's second largest tourism industry after football.

The organizing committee announced a few changes to the Amathous course. The start and finish will be at an archeaological site, and the course will pass near the "Acropolis"of Amathous. It should be slightly more difficult than last year.

"For the riders I think it's a good test before the big races," said event organizer Mike Hadjioannou.

The action will kick off with a "start of the year party" in Limassol in the beginning of March. That's the town where many races will stay while training and racing.

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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews.  She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.