The Swiss Racer Bikes Cup will start not in Switzerland, but in Liechtenstein when Schaan hosts round one this weekend, March 26-27. The series has previously visited Liechtenstein in 2007 and 2009.
While many of Switzerland's top racers will be in South Africa contesting the Cape Epic stage race, World Cup winner and 2009 World Champion Nino Schurter will be at the start in Schaan along with his teammate Florian Vogel, German champion Milatz Moritz, Frenchman Cedric Ravanel and Italian champion Marco Aurelio Fontana.
Olympic champion Sabine Spitz, the world ranked number one Lisi Osl, two-time world champion Irina Kalentieva and European champion Katrin Leumann will guarantee an exciting women's contest.
The Racer Bikes Cup features eight rounds in 2011, distributed across all regions of Switzerland and the stop in Liechtenstein. Regular venues include Schaan, Gränichen, Muttenz Lugano/Tesserete, Engelberg and Plaffeien while Chur, which hosted the Swiss national championships two years ago, is a new venue for 2011. Solothurn will host a festival while the Muttenz round will happen as the perfect warm-up, one week before the world championships. This year, Plaffeien is hosting the Swiss national championships.
"We will not deviate from our concept of a high quality, innovative and far-sighted racing series," said Andi Seeli, Racer Bikes Cup organizer. "The UCI has upgraded the status of the Racer Bikes Cups further, making it the series for top racers and the media and hence, interesting for spectators."
Like the last time the series visited Schaan, the course will feature a lap around the Community Center.
"From the start, you have to be there with the front to race well. Otherwise, you will have little chance of a top result. Another particular challenge is the plunge into the finish area, which requires great courage," said organizers.
The competition in Schaan
Swiss national champion Schurter is aware of the challenge he will face on Sunday. "I have very fond memories of the race and the excellent atmosphere, with many spectators," he said. "I want to show my best form and aim at a podium because this competition is good preparation for the World Cup."
Vogel and Schurter proved they are on form a few weeks ago at the Maremma Cup in Italy, when they went one-two. In addition to Fontana, Ravenel and Milatz, Schurter and Vogel will have to watch out for Martin Gujan, who was second here two years ago, last year's Under 23 World Cup winner Thomas Litscher and Patrik Gallati.
"Schaan is the first major race in central Europe and draws fine competition and is in a good location," said women's favorite Spitz on her web page.
2009 winner Lisi Osl said she expects the race to be long, but she comes into it in good form after a recent training block. "The training camp in Cyprus is still in my legs. For me, it is something special to start here (in Schaan). The mood is fantastic, and it's a top event. If you can be with the front runners, it is a incredibly good feeling."