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Sun-loving cyclists wanted for race across Australia

The Olympic triathlon winner, Brigitte McMahon, has thrown her support behind the Biel challenge.

(Brigitte McMahon)

Pedal power meets solar power in Australia when the World Solar Cycle Challenge gets underway in November. A Swiss team, with state of the art bikes, is looking for eight riders to take part in the 3,000 kilometre adventure.

The Engineering School of Biel is advertising for fit and enthusiastic cyclists to pedal the course, which runs across the continent from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south via Alice Springs.

The Biel team expects to be in Adelaide within five days. "We are looking for people who are quite fit, who are team players and who are ready to have the experience of a lifetime," said project spokesman, August Pfluger.

Applicants will be whittled down to a shortlist of 20, who will be invited to undertake a rigorous selection procedure in September.

About 35 teams from the top universities, research establishments and industry around the world are participating in the ride.

Billed as the greatest solar race in the world, the challenge is to design and build a bike capable of crossing Australia with only daylight and muscle as fuel.

Prominent Swiss personalities including federal councillors, Pascal Couchepin and Samuel Schmid, the record-holding balloonist, Bertrand Piccard, and the Olympic triathlon winner, Brigitte McMahon, have thrown their support behind the project.

The first World Solar Challenge, involving cars, was staged in 1987. The Engineering School of Biel won the event in 1990, embarrassing several major car manufacturers who had poured large amounts of sponsorship into their teams.

This year, a decade later, they're looking for victory again on two wheels rather than four.

"The engineers who developed that technology are working with the school again and they have used their world leading know-how to develop a new e-bike," said Pfluger.

"We would really like to demonstrate how good Swiss technology is when it comes to sustainable mobility. That's the first goal of this project."

Volunteers are invited to apply for a place on the team via www.spiritofbike.ch.

by Vincent Landon


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