Four exciting race days are expected at the 19th edition of the Afxentia stage race. Lead by the Olympic champions Jaroslav Kulhavy and Julie Bresset as well as the double world champion Pauline Ferrand Prevot and world number one Jolanda Neff, the competition in Lefkara kicks off on Thursday, 26th. Riders out of 28 different nations are supposed to start, that’s a new record.
Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing) on Cyprus prepares his second start at the Absa Cape Epic. “Cyprus and the event Cyprus Sunshine Cup is a great point of my preparation. There are a lot of UCI points to win and high sporty quality. I love really many amazing trails during the Afxentia stages”, Kulhavy comments on his come back on the island after being injured during last years edition.
Same counts for Fabian Giger (Colnago-Südtirol). The Swiss winner of Afxentia 2014 and vice European champion on Cyprus will also prepare for the Cape Epic, his debut on the South African stage race. “I like the format of the Afxentia stage race. The competition is very strong and I would like to be on the podium anyway. Of course, I would be happy, if I could repeat my victory from last year”, Giger tells.
Indeed, there are a lot contenders for Giger and Kulhavy. For example Jan Skarnitzl, Czech bronze medalist at the Europeans 2014 and of course Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing). The German plays it down a bit, but he enters the season 2015 as world ranked number five of the world. “The Afxentia ist good for me to get into the rhythm of racing”, Fumic says. He is accompanied by his new team mate Henrique Avancini from Brazil.
Further on, the two BH Sr Suntour-KMC riders Stéphane Tempier and Maxime Marotte are contenders for the overall podium as well as Florian Vogel riding for Focus XC.
Women: Exciting to watch the “femme fatal” and her challengers
In women’s peloton you can find a lot of world class riders showing up. When Jolanda Neff (Stöckli Pro Team) last year won the 18th edition of the Afxentia stage race, it was a bit of surprise in it. Some months later not anymore. Now the Swiss “femme fatal”, how she was called by a newspaper, arrives on Cyprus as current number one of the world and as the youngest world cup overall winner in history of mountain biking.
When Neff says, that her shape at this point of the preparation is better than expected, her contenders should be prepared for a big fight.
On Cyprus the 22 years old will meet her former team mate Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo-Liv). The French is the other huge talent of cycling. World champion on the road, world champion in cyclo cross and this with just got 23 years old.
Ferrand Prevot was riding cyclo cross until the end of January, so her preparation should be quite different to that from Jolanda Neff. Will be exciting to watch them fighting the four days.
Also interesting to see which role the Olympic champion Julie Bresset (Fra) will play. After a difficult year Bresset (BH Sr Suntour-KMC) tries to get back at the ultimate top level, she had in 2012 and 2013, when she two times was world champion.
Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan-Merida) is preparing for her debut at the Cape Epic as the Norwegian now has the experience of last years debut at the Afxentia, the nine times world champion will be well prepared to set pressure on the other ladies.
Marathon world champion Annika Langvad from Denmark should be also recognized minimum as a podium contender. Slovenian Blaza Klemencic (Habitat), Annie Last (Great Britain), Eliminator world champion Kathrin Stirnemann (Haibike-Ötztal) from Switzerland, Austrian Lisi Osl (Ghost Factory Racing) French Margot Moschetti (Betch.nl Superior) and her Ukrainian team mate Yana Belomoina are further top riders to beat on the demanding and scenic trails on the Mediterranean island.
“It’s already a success for the Cyprus Sunshine Cup to have all this great sports persons here for training and racing. And it’s also a very good sign, that there are athletes out of 28 different nations to visit Cyprus. Our organizing team is very proud for the development of our race, but we are also trying to improve so that we are up to the level of our participants”, Mike Hadjioannou says. The organizer still counts on the support of the Cyprus Tourism organization, which permanently tries to evolve Cyprus as a mountain bike destination.
Thursday kick off in Lefkara
For the second time Lefkara hosts the first two stages of the Afxentia. In the mountain village, well known for its lace and silver handicraft, on Thursday a 5,7 kilometre time trial opens the stage race, followed by a 55 kilometer loop on Friday. Also with start and finish in Lefkara.
After a neutral start, the peloton will enter picturesque trails, including the Kionia-Profitis Elias single track, which is considered to be one of the best on the island.
Start and finish of day three is located at Lythrodontas. A point to point race with 44.9 kilometres to go and on this stage the Kionia-Profitis Elias from mid ways has to be climbed. Followed be a downhill with eleven switch backs, down to Mantra tou Kampiou and back to Lythrodontas. Compared to 2014, the first five kilometres have changed and also the finish will be closer to the village.
The final stage is the well known cross country race with start and finish at Mantra tou Kampiou picnic place.
To remember, last years stage winner:
Stage 1 - Time Trial - Lefkara: Adelheid Morath / Jan Skarnitzl
Stage 2 - Point to Point - Lefkara: Jolanda Neff / Fabian Giger
Stage 3 - Point to Point Lythrodontas: Jolanda Neff / Fabian Giger
Stage 4 - Cross Country Olympic Format, Mantra tou Kampiou: Annika Langvad / Jan Skarnitzl
Overall: Jolanda Neff / Fabian Giger
Afxentia schedule (local time)
26/2 Lefkara Time Trial
13:45 Elite Women / Elite Men
27/2 Lefkara Point to Point
|11:00:00 Elite Men
11:00:30 Elite Women
28/2 Lythrodontas Point to Point
|11:00:00 Elite Men
11:00:30 Elite Women
01/03 Mantra tou Kampiou XCO
11:00 Elite Women
13:00 Elite Men
Fotos: © EGO Promotion/ as signed ©Armin M. Küstenbrück ©Marius Maasewerd / EGO-Promotion (free for editorial use)