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PhotoOnly a few days to go until the season of this year's iXS Downhill Cup starts. As usual we head down to the Swiss Rivera for the first race, where the European series starts at Monte Tamaro.

Already in the end of last year the course has been modified by Scott 11 team boss Claudio Caluori, and will be best prepped for the first race of the season. Only little things have been changed though. All corners have been paved again and the course has been extended, so that the start is now directly at the middle station. The course is now 2200m long, including an altitude difference of 640m. Last year Markus Pekoll (AUT - MS Mondraker) crossed the finish line as fastest rider in 4:33.009. According to his team boss Lukas Haider he will be at all races of the series again this year and looking into defending his title as overall champion.
The most important and already mentioned change is the classification of the race from the UCI. For the first time the downhill race is run in the Hors category, and therefore riders can collect world ranking points up to rank number 25, with price money of around 8,500 Euro being given out as well. We are expecting the level of the race to be even higher than last year's, as the starting list is packed with riders of the downhill world elite.

For the first time in the history of an iXS race Rachel and Gee Atherton (GBR - GT Factory Racing) will have the honour to race. Even as they are hot candidates for the podium, a closer look at the participants list shows that they won’t have it easy. Almost a regular, the Scott 11 team will be starting again, this year with 2011 winner Emilie Siegenthaler (SUI) and new signing Romain Paulhan (FRA). The team members of MS Mondraker will also be collecting points from the beginning of the series. Last year’s winner Markus Pekoll (AUT) will be trying to defend his title, but Brook MacDonald (NZL) and the two new additions to the team, Damien Spagnolo (FRA) and Emmeline Ragot (FRA), will also be favourites for this year’s overall title. To complete the field of fast Frenchman you should also keep an eye on Mickael Pascal (FRA - CK Racing Santacruz), currently ranked no. 10 in the world and current French Champion, and Florent Payet (FRA - SC-Intense), winner of Pila 2011. Out of the German riders you should keep an eye on Marcus Klausmann (Ghost Factory Racing) and ex-Fourcross pro and downhill newbie Johannes Fischbach (Ghost Factory Racing).

So, if you’re up for a race at the highest level, don’t be shy to make it all the way to Tessin. The wonderful surroundings and its Italian flair paired with the Swiss standard are always worth a journey, especially as it is still cold in other places at the end of April. Nevertheless it won't be possible to register on the day.

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