With battle lines drawn through the Alps here is who to watch in the race’s ninth edition.

The 2022 edition of the SPAR Swiss Epic gets underway in Arosa on Tuesday, 16 August 2022. The five-day mountain bike race to Conquer the Alps will once again see some of the world’s best marathon and stage racers assemble to battle it out across the 359-kilometre-long route. Along with 11 700 metres of climbing the course – which features race villages in Laax and Davos, as well as the start in Arosa – also includes 11 850 metres of spectacular descending.

Scintillating singletrack, both ruggedly natural and perfectly manicured, alpine dual track and linking sections of asphalt through picturesque Graubünden villages combine to create a route suited for attacking racing. Headlining the field are two defending champions, though both Nicola Rohrbach and Ariane Lüthi – the 2021 men’s and women’s race winners respectively – return to the SPAR Swiss Epic with new partners.

Rohrbach will line-up alongside fellow Swiss, Nils Landenberger. At 35 years old the defending champion is in the latter stages of his career; while his teammate, in the ARC8 BICYCLES - Goldwurst- Power squad is just 20. The combination of youth and experience will be fascinating to watch, as it is a similar dynamic to the one which plays out in the team of the defending women’s champion.

Lüthi, is taking a mentoring role along with that of senior partner in the Pump For Peace team. Her teammate, Faranak Partoazar, is hardly inexperienced in international mountain biking; but the Iranian is still relatively new to mountain bike stage racing. She and Lüthi started the 4Islands MTB Croatia together, in April, but a hand injury for Partoazar left them unable to complete their first Epic Series race as a team. Completing the SPAR Swiss Epic and competing for a podium place would thus represent a good return for the pair.

Their fiercest rivals are likely to be the doc-oliday.com//Team BULLS and Davos Klosters Women. Janine Schneider and Irina Lützelschwab are tough to beat, while Bettina Janas and Adelheid Morath have the advantage of SPAR Swiss Epic knowledge to call upon. Janas and Morath won the 2019 edition together, storming back from 15 minutes down after Stage 2 to win the overall by 4 minutes, over Alice Pirard and Stefanie Dohrn.

Other elite women’s teams to watch are the Velo Flütsch squad of Alessia Nay and Antonia Bünter; as well as the Rare Street team of Vera Looser and Kim le Court, both of whom raced at the Commonwealth Games. The women’s field is completed by the Moselle Liv, of Sandrine Koenig and Charlotte Welter, and MTBcamps, of Maaris Meier and Liisa Ehrberg, teams.

In the men’s race ARC8 BICYCLES - Goldwurst- Power’s fiercest rivals are likely to come from the Singer Racing, BUFF MEGAMO squads, and the Wilier Pirelli team. Martin Frey and Simon Stiebjahn celebrated the foundation of their new team with the overall victory at the 4Islands MTB Croatia. The former Team BULLS riders, now competing in the Singer Racing colours, held off many of their SPAR Swiss Epic rivals in the Adriatic. Doing so again will require besting BUFF MEGAMO’s top team, this time out, as Hans Becking and Jose Dias, re-establish their Absa Cape Epic partnership for the stage race in Graubünden. Becking and Dias will be supported by Buff Megamo 2’s Hugo Drechou and Enrique Morcillo Vergara, which further adds to their status as a team to beat.

Wilier Pirelli, who usually arrive in Switzerland in force, will only be represented by one team in the 2022 race. Fabian Rabensteiner and Daniel Geismayr are experienced enough to mitigate any unnecessary risks and have both won the SPAR Swiss Epic before, in 2019 and 2017 respectively. Other teams who may challenge for a top five placing include the KTM Alchemist powered Brenta Brakes – Bros outfit, of Lorenzo and Nicolas Samparisi, the St Moritz team, of Fadri Barandun and Vinzent Dorn, the KMC squad, of Teus Ruijter and Tim Smeenge, and the Looser / De Lange pairing, of Konny Looser and Tristan de Lange.

Further down the start list Roberto Bou Martin and Pablo Guerrero, of Cannondale TB will be looking to secure a top ten finish, ahead of the likes of TSG, IMMOunited - mtbs.cz, FORESTIERE ROSTI, KTM Alchemist & Attitude and Bottecchia Factory 2. Three of the more interesting teams all have an African flavour. Valley Electrical Titan Racing’s HB Kruger and Matthew Keyser, hail from South Africa and both have Absa Cape Epic pedigree.

Daniel Gathof, meanwhile, is mentoring Rwandan Didier Munyaneza though his first mountain bike race. The Squirt Lube/Twin Lakes Cycling Academy team is not the only squad with a Rwandan in the race, however. Pumpforpeace – Velosolutions have Jean Eric Habimana starting alongside Lesotho’s Tumelo Makae, adding Africa’s Mountain Kingdom to the Land of a Thousand Hills among the nearly 40 nations represented at the 2022 SPAR Swiss Epic.

To follow the mountain biking action, from 16 to 20 August 2022, visit www.epic-series.com/swissepic.