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Bircher Faces Difficult LEN Cup Defense -- August 17, 2005

MURITZ, Germany, August 17. BRITAIN'S Alan Bircher will be hoping to make it a hat trick of European Cup victories when he competes in the final of this year's open water swimming series in Germany.

The former University of Bath swimmer, who now lives and trains in Germany, has won the LEN 10k European Cup for the past two years and will be aiming for three in a row on Saturday in Muritz.

However, he will face stern competition for the title from three other athletes who are all in contention for the series victory and the nearly $7,000 prize that goes with it.

After six rounds, Bircher is currently third in the points table with 47. Leading the way is title favorite Thomas Lurz of Germany - the 5km world champion - with 60 points. In second sits Velerio Cleri of Italy with 51 and Bertrand Venturi of France is fourth with 45 points. Bircher has had a third place, first place, and sixth place victory thus far.