Exciting race stuff again at the 19th edition of the Afxentia stage race within Cyprus Sunshine Cup. Czech Jan Skarnitzl takes the stage win in Lythrodontas by outsprinting Henrique Avancini and Florian Vogel. The women saw again the fight of the three dominant riders, Jolanda Neff taking her second stage win, benefiting from a flat tire by leading Annika Langvad, who defended her overall lead. In beautiful weather conditions Margot Moschetti got third spot on the podium.
The story of men’s race at stage 3 (45 kilometers) offered some quite exciting stuff. At the beginning of the long single trail uphill, the bunch was riding the day before downwards, 17 riders were together. But when they reached the top of the mountain, entering the long downhill towards Mantra tou Kampiou picnic area, there were only five riders left:
Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) lead them into the trail, followed by Stephane Tempier (BH-Sr Suntour-KMC), Florian Vogel (Focus XC) in the yellow jersey, Afxentia title defender Fabian Giger (Colnago-Südtirol) and Jan Skarnitzl (Sram Mitas Trek).
The chasers Maxime Marotte (BH-Sr Suntour-KMC) and Sebastian Carabin (Merida Wallonie) were 46 seconds back.
Avancini in the downhill had a short problem with his chain, so Tempier could pass. The Frenchman was hammering down the single trail and when he reached Feed Zone 3 at the picnic area, he was around 30 seconds in the lead with 10 kilometers to go.
“They told me, to go fast. But one kilometer to go, they catched me again. Anyway, it’s good for me in the overall. Tomorrow the game is completely open”, Tempier explained from his sight.
Fabian Giger was able to bridge the gap to Tempier. The Swiss winner of last year’s edition, attacked the chasing group on one of the waves and reached Tempier. “I was surprised, that the other three came back with one kilometer to go. Unfortunately in the sprint, I was not able to keep it. But today, I felt much better, than yesterday. It was fun again, I like it”, says Giger.
The yellow jersey kept it all together “I didn’t want to risk anything in the downhill”, Florian Vogel said. “We were working together in the waves.” And regarding his pretty good performance: “I came perfect through the winter and my new (Focus) team gives me tailwind. I knew that I am in a good shape. It’s great to lead the race and I hope tomorrow I will have again good legs. Let’s see.”
In the sprint of five, it looks like Avancini will take it, but Jan Skarnitzl passed close to the line. “I was the weakest of the five”, Skarnitzl says laughing, “for several times, I lost the contact, 10, 20 meters and had to catch back. In the sprint, I was in the last position and was able to use the slipstream. Happy to have this stage win.”
Henrique Avancini was not really disappointed. “I am quite happy, because the stage was very difficult for me. On the rolling part, I was really struggling, but at the end I did not lose time”, the Brazilian explained.
In front of the last stage, a race in the Olympic cross country format at Mantra tou Kampiou, there are still five riders within 45 seconds in the GC, promising a great final stage. Maxime Marotte, who came into eight, with only 11 seconds down, has 45 seconds, Giger 43, Avancini 17 and Tempier 11 seconds to Vogel.
The winner of stage 2, Grant Ferguson (Betch.nl Superior-Brentjens) could not repeat. He finished 13th and lost 3:33 minutes to Skarnitzl.
Langvad with flat tire, Moschetti with a crash
Also the women’s general classification is not decided yet. Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing) defended her lead on the 45 kilometers of stage 3, but lost 45 seconds of her gap to Jolanda Neff (Stöckli Pro Team) and takes now 37 seconds into the final day.
Langvad suffered from bad luck, because she lead the race, when she went into the long downhill, together with Margot Moschetti (Betch.nl Superior-Brentjens), but she left the 21 years old French behind her.
At the last part of the single trail Langvad got a flat tire and had to ride without air in the back wheel until the last Tech Zone, where she could change.
Right when they passed this Tech Zone, Jolanda Neff had reached Moschetti and Langvad jumped also on her bike. She could make it back to the duo.
On the wavy last part, around seven kilometers from the finish, Langvad lost the contact and also Moschetti. “I crashed on the gravel road”, the u23 vice world champion explained. Some scratches on her legs were signs of it.
So Annika Langvad passed Moschetti and finished second behind Jolanda Neff, who could repeat her Lythrodontas victory from 2014.
“Cool. When we went into the single trail uphill, I choose my own rhythm did not try to follow them. I did not expect to get back to them, so I was a bit surprised. But cool, to take the stage win.”
Annika Langvad was a bit unhappy about her flat tire, of course. “I had to ride quite a long part with it. I closed again to Jolanda and Margot, but then she went away again in the downhill on the gravel road. We will see, what happens tomorrow. It will be exciting”, the Dane told. She is the last year’s winner of the cross country race.
Margot Moschetti due to her crash lost 2:18 minutes and in the overall she has 5:37 minutes to Langvad. Anyway the French shows herself “happy to be in front with the strong girls”, Moschetti said.
Kathrin Stirnemann (Haibike-Ötztal), who finished fourth and is also fourth in the overall (+15:09) probably has no more chance to reach Moschetti on the final day.
“It was better than yesterday. In the uphill I took my own speed. The last ten kilometers are my terrain and I tried to pace it”, the Swiss told.
Her team mate Corina Gantenbein climbed very well, was sitting on four until the end of the single trail before Stirnemann reached her. “At the end I suffered from cramps, so Kathrin went away”, Gantenbein was anyway happy with her result of the day.
Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo-Liv) suffered from problems with one knee and did not finish. Same for the third of the opening stage, Annie Last (Great Britain National Team).