That was not really expected at the opening round of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup. Great Britain Grant Ferguson took the win on second stage of Afxentia stage race. After 55 kilometers he crossed the finish line in Lefkara six seconds in front of Brazilian Henrique Avancini and nine before Stephane Tempier from France. The duel between Annika Langvad and Jolanda Neff went to the Danish marathon world champ. Third place went to French talent Margot Moschetti.
The BH-Sr Suntour-KMC duo tried to launch a team tactic. “The plan was, that we are going in position one and two in the long single trail, but Stephane could not overtake”, Maxime Marotte explained after finishing fifth, 23 seconds down.
So Marotte took a solo lead by around 20 seconds, but the chasing group catched him again on the fire road. Main actor of the chasing group was Avancini. The final four kilometre climb then decided the stage.
Around 400 meters to go, when it got really steep, Grant Ferguson (Betch.nl Superior Brentjens) attacked.
“I had to go, why not”, Ferguson was laughing. “I tried to win the stage, but of course it surprises myself, that I could do it.”
Nobody could follow immediately. Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) from his competitors was seen as maybe the strongest guy of the day. But when Ferguson hit the road, he could not keep his wheel. “He took the right moment, but nothing is decided yet. I hope I can surprise tomorrow again”, Avancini said. And: “Yes, for some time I felt to be the strongest of the leading group. My shape is pretty good. Hope, I can continue on Saturday.”
Stephane Tempier lost nine seconds and got the third spot on the podium. “Grant was extremely strong in the last uphill, but in the overall our team is in a good position. We will see, which strategy, we can do tomorrow”, commented Tempier, who is now eleven seconds down to the leader Florian Vogel, who finished fourth, eleven seconds behind Ferguson. The stage winner is now 11 seconds back.
A very exciting third stage is expected to come in Lythrodontas on Saturday.
Langvad stays cool
The women’s ranking is much clearer. Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing) and Jolanda Neff (Stöckli Pro) came together at the long climb up to Lefkara. “I was not sure, if Jolanda was not strong enough or if she could attack me. So I tried it and set my rhythm in a way, that I could react, when she would have attacked. But she could not follow”, Langvad explained, how she took the stage win, grabbing the overall leader jersey. “It was so great today, because last year she distanced me in the downhill and now I could hold her wheel. I tried to stay cool and knew, that I could do this long climb very well. Yeah.”
Jolanda Neff looked not disappointed. “I am not at that same point than last year, that’s what I know. My preparation started later. This is no excuse, Annika was pretty strong, of course. Congrats to her. I am not unhappy, because I know, why it is like this”, the young Swiss lady said. And then added, pointing on Margot Moschetti:
“In the uphill, she was really, really strong. Respect.” Neff crossed the finish line 1:24 later than Langvad.
Margot Moschetti (Betch.nl Superior Brentjens) after the first climb build a three women leading group together with Neff and Langvad, but lost them in the long downhill. “I then set my own pace. My sensations were very good today”, said a smiling u23 vice world champion. She lost 2:55 minutes to Langvad.
Kathrin Stirnemann came into fourth, 7:40 back. “I am very happy with that”, the Haibike-Ötztal racer from Switzerland said. A bit unhappy she was, when Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan-Merida) flatted. “It was just, when we were close and I thought we could ride together. But right behind the Feed Zone two, she got the flat tire, what a pity.” They both will build up a pair for the Cape Epic.
Dahle-Flesjaa got another flat tire after Feed Zone 3 and came to finish very late.
Fifth place went to Austrian Elisabeth Osl (Ghost Factory Racing, +9:06).