Some of the best-known names in cycling are taking part in this year's six-day race in Zurich, an innovation the organisers hope will reverse the decline of the sport.
Markus Zberg and Oscar Camenzind are among the well-known Swiss cyclists who are taking part in the indoor event from Monday to Saturday. Their inclusion is a last ditch attempt to rescue six-day cycling from its sharp decline in recent years.
In the 1997/98 season, the six-day cycling circuit counted 17 races, but this year financial losses have cut the number of events to eight.
The 50-year-old race is also losing its wooden track in the city's Hallenstadion which will go when the venue is renovated in 2002
The last chance to save the event rests in having a track that can be dismantled and packed away for the 349 days of the year on which it is not needed.
One of the sport's main problems is that it is inaccessible to most non-experts. Riders competing in teams of two race around the velodrome on six successive evenings, with each evening broken down into a variety of events.
The main events, called Madison sessions, are interspersed with sprints held roughly every 20 laps. The race is won by gaining points in the sprints or by gaining laps on the other riders.
Zurich's innovation this year is to expand the teams to three: two track experts and a road-racing expert (usually better known to the general public) who will perform in the sprints.
One of the teams with the best chances is the Swiss duo of Bruno Risi and Kurt Betschart. The 32 year-olds have won 26 six-day races together and are aiming to clinch their seventh victory in Zurich.
Risi and Betschart will be strengthened by the inclusion on their team of Markus Zberg, probably the best Swiss sprinter.
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