Title defender Jolanda Neff from Switzerland and her country mate Florian Vogel took the first stage in Lefkara of the 19th edition of Afxentia stage race. Neff beat Annika Langvad by only 1,8 seconds, but Vogel took 12,2 seconds from Stephane Tempier.
Oh, wow”, Jolanda Neff was astonished, when she took a look on the results. Only 1,8 seconds dividing her and Annika Langvad after the 5 kilometre time trial. “I felt good, but in the first race, you never know”, she was laughing and happy about her first victory in the first appearance in her new Stöckli team clothes. She decided late to race on Cyprus. “I started my preparation is one month later than the year before, because the world cup opens just in May. But the shape came faster, than I expected, so I was motivated to race.”
Annika Langvad told, that since she's preparing for the Cape Epic stage race, she has not done speed training. “I have worked on my basics, but I know, that I can go fast, even when I have done only basic training. Anyway, at the beginning of the season, it’s always difficult, because you have no comparison”, the marathon world champion told. “If I knew, how tight it will be, I could catch some seconds somewhere”, Langvad said laughing.
Annie Last on third position was a bit of a surprise. She lost 54,3 seconds to Neff, but it was a really strong season opener for the British. Eight seconds behind her, Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa lead a bunch of riders, very close together.
Dahle-Flesjaa was passed by Langvad, who started one minute later. So she was a bit careful, on commenting it. “I am not a fast starter”, she said, but remarked, that it was her very first time in her career, that she has ridden a full suspension bike. “This is a historical moment”, the Norwegian Olympic champion 2004 said laughing.
Florian Vogel won, but did not reach the goal set by his team manager
With an impressive ride, Florian Vogel took his first stage win on Cyprus. The former European champion from Switzerland did the same as his country mate Jolanda Neff: After changing the team from Scott-Odlo to Focus XC he took a victory for his new squad right in the first race.
When he had crossed the finish line, he was a bit critical about himself. “I tried to pace, but in my opinion, I was to fast in the beginning”, Vogel explained. “And I could not reach the goal, my team manager has set. I should pass the rider, which has started one minute before me.” Matthias Beck, who was meant, was laughing and Vogel too.
Finally Vogel took 12 seconds from Stephane Tempier. The French rider from BH-Sr Suntour-KMC found himself in a good shape. “Yeah, it was good, especially for the first intensity I got. I was pushing hard, so I got a little bit troubles in the downhill”, Tempier explained.
To have Grant Ferguson (Betch.nl Superior-Brentjens) on third position was a bit of a surprise on the one hand. But not on the other. The British still not counts into the absolute world class riders, but he is known as a pretty good sprinter.
So he passed the finish line 21,57 seconds slower than Vogel, letting the Brasilian Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) and the French Maxime Marotte (BH-Sr Suntour-KMC) only with 0,28 and 0,35 seconds behind.
Olympic Gold medallist in Masters category
Another Olympic champion, the first one in history of mountain biking, has hidden himself in the masters category. Dutch Bart Brentjens, who acts now as team manager of his own Betch.nl Superior Brentjens MTB Team, took a short termed decision and registered late in the masters category. The 44 years old gold medallist from Atlanta 1996 and bronze medallist from Athen 2004 rode 17:25 minutes, winning the masters category in a solid way.
Afterwards he gave some fresh tips about the course to the riders of his team and then prepared to give them service at the technical zone.
Junior world champion Simon Andreassen from Denmark could win the juniors category despite a cold, he suffers from since a few days. “I could not go like I wanted to, but for this it was okay”, Andreassen said. By the way: With his time 14:39 he would have reached 11th position in men’s category.
Fridays stage will start at 11.00 local time and finish also in Lefkara. 55 kilometres to go.