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The all women Italian based MTB Pro-Team Colnago-Südtirol gearing up for the 2012 RockyRoads UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg © EGO Promotion/Gameplan Media

The all-women Italian based MTB Pro-Team Colnago-Südtirol will jet into South Africa next week targeting the season-opening RockyRoads UCI MTB World Cup as strategically important in an Olympic year.

The current world champ bronze medallist Eva Lechner and Swiss star Nathalie Schneitter, both former winners on the World Cup circuit and both in the top eight of the UCI World rankings will spearhead the team of athletes.

The Colnago-Südtirol team also includes rising star Swiss youngster Vivienne Meyer, Italian junior world champ bronze medallist Julia Innerhofer, Lisa Rabensteiner, marathon specialist Mariangela Cerati and Deaf Worlds gold medallist Renate Telser.

Schneitter finds herself under some pressure as her place in the Swiss team to the London Olympics is still undecided, and the Swiss Olympic selectors have given her the first four races of the 2012 UCI World Cup circuit to try and secure her berth in the team for the Games.

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Swiss star Nathalie Schneitter will be hoping to use the 2012 RockyRoads UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg to secure her qualification for the Swiss Olympic team to the London 2012 Games © EGO Promotion/Gameplan Media

She was one of three riders who took part in last year’s UCI World Cup at the Cascades layout, together with Meyer and Lechner, and will provide the prior experience of the unique track to the other four riders who will be taking to the Pietermaritzburg course for the first time.

“The more experience one can get on a circuit, the better it is, especially being a circuit where the World Championships will take place next year,” said Schneitter. “Nevertheless, the World Championships will be at a different time of the year and we will see how much influence the climate changes will have,” she added.

Meyer will be keen to erase her nightmare of 2011 when she crashed heavily in the rock garden section of the cross-country track and had to be rushed to hospital for stitches.

“The rock garden is a really interesting technical passage,” said Meyer, who added that she is keen to be back on the Cascades MTB park layout. “The Team is looking forward to going back to the circuit and we hope that not too many changes will be made.”

The team arrives in the capital next week to start their preparations for the competitions.

The RockyRoads UCI MTB World Cup Pietermaritzburg takes place at the Cascades MTB Park from 16 to 18 March 2012. More information can be found at www.mtbworldcupsa.co.za