The Cyprus Sunshine Cup is one of the most famous Mountainbike Series in the UCI Calendar. It takes place every year in the early season. Cyprus Sunshine Cup races have been organized for more than 20 years, with the first race taking place in 1997. The races were under different names and were not in a form of series. Since 2006, the races were renamed to “Cyprus Sunshine Cup” which is an official series in the UCI calendar.
The Cyprus Sunshine Cup kicks off with the “Afxentia Stage race”, which is one of the oldest- if not the oldest- existing stage race in Europe and one of the very few Hors Class Stage Races (SHC) in the UCI calendar. It is organized in honor of the National hero Grigoris Afxentiou who sacrificed himself in the area of Macheras Forest in 1957, during the freedom struggle of 1955-1959.
With the best mountain bikers in the world a permanent “feature” of the race, more and more amateur riders discover the beauty of Macheras Mountains and the great riding the area has to offer and line up next to their idols for some unique early season racing!
The second race of Cyprus Sunshine Cup is taking place inside, and around, the ruins of the ancient kingdom of Amathous in the outskirts of Limassol and is a Class 1 registered race in the UCI Calendar.
The island of Cyprus is located on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It has perfect weather for cycling, especially in the months between October and April, when temperatures range between 15°C and 25°C, while annual rainfall is also quite low in comparison to European countries. What's more, unlike other European or Mediterranean countries, the strong headwinds that are a bane to cyclists, here are rare.
What makes Cyprus stand out as a heaven for cyclists is its compactness. It is like a whole continent compacted into a small island! The third largest island of the Mediterranean, Cyprus combines attractive beaches with pine-clad peaks, busy modern Europeanised towns and tranquil old stone villages, vineyards and olive groves and ancient ruins. The short distances mean that there are rapid changes of terrain entailing a variety of different road surfaces over short distances.
- Macheras Mountain - Mantra tou Kambiou
Lefkara hosts the first two stages of the Afxentia Stage Race. A picturesque village with narrow and winding, stone paved alleys and traditional architecture of old, terracotta-roofed houses. It is situated at the south-eastern foot of the Troodos Mountains, at an altitude of 650m above sea level.
Lefkara village was well known in Europe since the Medieval ages for its lacing and silversmithing crafts. Legend has it, that the famous painter Leonardo da Vinci himself visited the village in 1481 and bought a lace altar cloth, which he donated to Milan cathedral. While riding through the village you can still observe the skilled craftswomen, in the narrow alleyways of the village, patiently creating these masterpieces!
Stage 1 - Time Trial
Stage 1 of the Afxentia Stage race starts from The Saviour church on the hill overlooking Lefkara. After passing through the narrow alleys of the village, it follows a route inspired by Enduro racing to decent 500m lower to the basin of the Pentaschoinos River.
Stage 2 - Point to Point
Stage 2 of the race starts in Lefkara center, and after climbing almost to the Peak of Macheras Mountain the riders will return to the village through breathtaking singletrail and fast forest roads! This is a Point to Point stage.
The community of Lythrodontas hosts the third stage of the Afxentia stage race. Lythrodontas is built on the foothill of the Machairas Mountain region and is covered by the green colour of its olive groves which combined with the wild vegetation of pine trees and thyme create a beautiful scenery! The village has a long tradition on agriculture and farming, and is well known for its high quality and tasty olive oil. The first mentions of organized agriculture and farming in the area are coming from the Byzantine years in Lythrodontas.
Stage 3 - Point to Point
Stage 3 of the Afxentia starts in Lythrodontas main square. After going through some of the best riding the area has to offer the riders will return to the finish on the outskirts of the village.
Lythrodontas also hosts the final awards ceremony after the last stage of the race. The local community has embraced the race and creates a festive atmosphere with traditional music, food and sweets!
While the start and finish areas of Afxentia are hosted by the largest communities of the area, the core racing is held in the heart of Macheras Mountain which is a National Forest Park! Extending to an area of 4520 hectares, Macheras is one of the largest forested areas of the island. Although covered mostly by Calabrian Pines and Golden oaks, more than 600 plant species can be found in the area - 27 of which can only be found in Cyprus and nowhere else in the world!
Macheras is also the habitat of various species of mammals (such as foxes, hares and hedgehogs), reptiles and rare endemic species of butterflies. Important protected bird species also live in the Park such as the Bonelli’s eagle and the endemic: Cyprus Warbler, Cyprus Wheatear, Coal Tit, Scops Owl, Jay and also the common Chukar and Wood pigeon.
Being a large forested mountainous area with an ever-changing landscape with a vast network of forest roads and some very nice flowy singletrails, the Macheras area is one of the best areas of the island for Mountainbiking. The Kakokefalos and the Kionia Profitis Elias are two of the best singletrails of the island and throughout the years that they are used for the Afxentia stage race, they have received raving reviews by some of the best riders in the world! In 2017, we introduce in the race one more beautiful singletrail, starting from the abandoned Filani village and finishing next to the hideout that the national hero Grigoris Afxentiou was killed.
Stage 4 - Cross country
The Mantra tou Kampiou Pic-Nic site hosts the fourth and final stage of the Afxentia stage race, the Cross Country Olympic format race! Being based on the same trails used in the very first edition of the stage race, the Mantra course is considered a classic in the MTB XCO world. An all-natural, old school course, which slowly evolves every year, with new - small or big - sections added every year to make racing more spectacular, with long climbs and very long, super steep descends, it's a favourite amongst the athletes!
The second race of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup is held inside and around the ancient kingdom of Amathous. Located on the eastern edge of Limassol city, Amathous is one of the significant ancient city-kingdoms of Cyprus where, according to mythology, Greek hero Theseus left the pregnant Ariadne to be attended by local women. It was also an important site of worship of the Goddess Aphrodite-Astarte.
The race course passes close or through the most important archaeological finds of the site. It starts in front of the Agora, where the ancient port of the city used to be. It then goes around the hill of the Acropolis to reach the northern defense wall of the city. A technical climbing singletrail takes the riders to the highest point where the Acropolis of the city and Aphrodite shrine used to be! From there, the longest descend of the course brings the riders around the south defensive wall of the Acropolis and on to the start/finish area.