Schurter and Absalon among favorites for Racer Bikes Cup

Following the successful season opener in Schaan two week ago, the Racer Bikes Cup will feature its second round in Lugano / Tesserete this weekend, April 9-10. For many racers, it will be the final test of legs before the World Cup season opens later this month. Olympic champion Julien Absalon, World Cup overall champion Nino Schurter, Florian Vogel and German champion Moritz Milatz will liven up the action in the men's race.

Last year foreigners dominated the technically demanding circuit featuring lots of wooded singletrack. Absalon and Alex Vuillermoz gave the French a one-two finish and Russian Irina Kalentieva triumphed in the women's race. The best the Swiss could do was a third place by Lukas Flückiger.

The Swiss racers hoping to keep their winning streak alive after starting it two weeks ago in Schaan, even as they take on top competition in a sort of mini-World Cup event. Schurter came out on top in Schaan.

Vogel is one of the favorites. "I like the track. It is one of the best in Switzerland and very technical, moreover, the proportion of singletrack is enormously high," he said.

Vogel named Absalon, Schurter and himself as his top picks for a win. "In addition to the three of us, we can't forget that the German Milatz seems very strong. Everyone wants to do well because it will be good for morale. It will certainly be a spectacle."

"I look forward to the technical track," said Schaan champion and Vogel's Scott-Swisspower teammate Schurter.

Another racer to watch is the 20-year-old Matthew Stirling. In Schaan, in his first elite race, he finished seventh and was the top under 23 racer. Tesserete is one of the favorite tracks of the former junior Swiss champion, who won two years ago on the same route.

Osl and Spitz to duel in women's race

World ranked number one Elizabeth Osl, who won in Schaan, is the favorite in the women's race, but she'll likely face a strong challenge from Olympic champion Sabine Spitz, who as sixth in the opener.

European champion Katrin Leumann is expecting a difficult race. "I am suffering at this very moment from a pollen allergy. My eyes are watering and my nose is running, and it's difficult for me to breathe. My lungs are working poorly at the moment, and therefore I do not expect to finish with a high placing, but I'll take it as it comes and do my best."

"I'm looking forward to the race and the brilliant track with its thousands of roots," said Leumann, who is Osl's teammate.

The best chances for a top Swiss performance are likely to come from Sarah Koba and Marielle Saner-Guinchard. But even the young Katherine Stirling, second best U23 rider in Schaan and teammate of Spitz, may do well.

The elite racers will compete on Sunday although a total of about 700 racers, including amateurs, is expected.

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