Defending champ Mennen counts on team support during Trans Zollernalb

The third edition of Sparkasse Trans Zollernalb kicks off on Friday, September 21 and runs through Sunday, September 23. Marathon world champion Christoph Sauser and Olympic silver medallist Sabine Spitz will lead a bunch of top marathon riders into the three-day stage race. Nearly 600 racers are expected in the southwest part of Germany.

"We have good cards in our hand," said Robert Mennen, who won the 2011 edition of the Trans Zollernalb. This year, he expecting a tough race with Sauser and former marathon world champion and Topeak-Ergon teammate Alban Lakata.

"There is no team order," said Mennen. "I think we are in a good situation with two riders on this level. Last year, there was a really good atmosphere and a perfect organisation. So, I'm excited to be part of it again."

The mountains are not so high in the Zollernalb, and the technical sections are not that demanding. That makes racing more tactical, and it encourages team work.

Team Bulls' Karl Platt aims to be one of the front guys who will benefit from a strong team. The former Cape Epic winner will have plenty of support - in the form of teammates Tim Böhme, Thomas Dietsch, Stefan Sahm and young guns Simon Stiebjahn and Marcus Nicolas.

"I am very optimistic to play a good role in the race," said Platt. "The good thing at Trans Zollernalb is that one super rider cannot dominate easily. The race stays open till the last stage."

One of these "super riders" for sure is Sauser. The Specialized rider, like many of the participants, is focused on his marathon World title defense two weeks later and is using this weekend's three days of scenic racing to fine tune his form so he can defend his title.

"The course is super fast and not technical. It's good to have such different kind of bike racing. I'm looking forward to it," said Sauser.

Other podium contenders in the race include European cross country champion Moritz Milatz (BMC Racing); Hannes Genze and Jochen Käss (Multivan Merida); German marathon champion Markus Kaufmann (Centurion-Vaude); and Belgian Olympian Kevin van Hoovels (Versluys).

Unique to the Trans Zollernalb is an intermediate sprint competition with three, two and one bonus seconds awarded at each. The sprints add to the race tactics.

Spitz and Süss: As fast as possible

In the women's race, a duel is likely between Esther Süss and Sabine Spitz. The Swiss and the German have both won the marathon Worlds. In 2011, Spitz took the silver in front of Wheeler iXS rider Süss, who took the bronze medal.

"The stage race is important for me, with two weeks to go to the marathon Worlds. And I like Albstadt and the crowd of the Zollernalb area," said Haibike rider Spitz.

Süss agreed. "It's part of my [Worlds] preparation, but if I'm racing, I always go fast as possible."

The duo of Elisabeth Brandau and Silke Schmidt also have an outside shot at victory. Schmidt, especially has had good results and seems to be in good form.

In total, about 570 riders are expected to race the third edition of the Trans Zollernalb. Racers will cover 216 kilometers with 3797 in climbing.

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