Stacked men's field promises tough TransAlp competition

More than 1,000 mountain bikers from almost 40 countries will race the 15th annual TransAlp mountain bike stage race, starting for the first time in Oberammergau, Germany, on Saturday. The 2012 edition again features eight stages and ends in Italy.

The majority of participants venturing on the TransAlp come from Germany (400+). Swiss (102), Dutch (84), Austrians (73) as well as Italians (71) are also high in number of registered racers.

Some come from farther away: South Africans (56), Australians (9), Canadians (4), Americans (6), Mexicans (2), Koreans (6), Costa Ricans (2) plus some Israelis (9) and one Kiwi from New Zealand.

However, the favorites for the victory all come from Europe. Besides Swiss title defenders Urs Huber and Konny Looser of Team Stöckli, there are several other pro teams who could take the overall win.

Team Bulls will enter two teams featuring Germany's Karl Platt and Stefan Sahm as well as Thomas Dietsch (France) and Tim Böhme (Germany). Others include Alban Lakata (Austria) and Robert Mennen (Germany) of Topeak Ergon Racing, Andreas Kugler (Switzerland) and Hannes Genze (Germany) of Multivan Merida Biking as well as the new pairing Markus Kaufmann (Germany) and Thomas Stoll (Switzerland) of Centurion-Vaude/BiXS iXS Pro Team are others to watch.

The women's race has one team of clear favorites: Swiss rider Milena Landtwing (Centurion-Vaude) and Brit Sally Bigham (Topeak Ergon).

The race will conclude on July 21 after travelling through Austrian stops Imst, Ischgl and Nauders and Swiss stop Scuol. Italy's host cities include Livigno, Ponte di Legno, Madonna di Campiglio and finally Riva del Garda, which traditionally hosts the finish right at the shores of Lake Garda.

This year, the racers will master a total distance of more than 600 kilometers peppered with more than 21,000 meters in elevation gain.

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