Finally the leaders defended their yellow jerseys at the final day of the Afxentia stage race. Florian Vogel had to fight hard against Henrique Avancini and Stephane Tempier, but secured yellow by his second stage win. Same fulfilled Annika Langvad, but she was early in front, winning the cross country race at Mantra tou Kampiou on Cyprus in front of Margot Moschetti and Kathrin Stirnemann.
Five riders were still in the game of men’s category before the start of the final cross country race at the picnic place. And so the pace was set very high from the beginning. First it was French Maxime Marotte (BH-Sr Suntour-KMC), who lost the leading group. Six riders, including stage 2 winner Grant Ferguson (Betch.nl Superior Brentjens) and Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing) were in front. Title defender Fabian Giger (Colnago-Südtirol) was the next, who had to resign from the fight for the overall. He lost the contact.
At last it was a fight of three. Leader Florian Vogel (Focus XC) was controlling, Stephane Tempier (BH-Sr Suntour-KMC) hanging on the wheel and Henrique Avancini (Cannondale Factory Racing) was attacking several times. “In the uphill and in the downhill”, the Brazilian told. “But Florian was the strongest of the day. He deserves the win.”
Vogel was able to defend all attacks, while Stephane Tempier got into problems in the pre last lap. He got some seconds and was not able to fight back. “It was too hard for me today. Henrique and Florian, they were the better ones, no question. The last lap I was really suffering, but finally it’s okay for me. It was the first race of the season and it was a good training”, the Frenchman told.
In the final lap the door to the overall win for Avancini was still open. He had to gain 17 seconds to Vogel. But it was the Swiss man in yellow, who took the action by himself. Two kilometres to go, he attacked and went away.
“Sorry”, he touched Avancinis on the shoulder in the finish area, “I wanted to make sure, that Stephane is not coming back. When I crash, then everything could be lost.”
There was no sorry necessary for winning his second stage after the time trial in Lefkara on Thursday. Avancini showed himself happy. “I did not win, but this were four good days for me. I am already in a good shape, but there a some things, I can improve”, the South American concluded.
Florian Vogel arrived with 20 seconds gap to Avancini and celebrated his first Afxentia overall win. “The legs were again really top. I could ride tactical. At one time, I tried to go in the offense, when I realized that Tempier has problems in the uphill. Yesterday, he was so strong in the downhill, that I wanted be sure. It really went super good for me”, the two times world cup winner explained. Only 11 seconds divided him from Tempier before the stage.
“It was of course a very good preparation for the season.”
Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavy had his best day in the office and finished fourth. “Today it was better. All in all, I felt a bit too tired, but for training it was okay”, he commented.
Karl Markt from Austria came into fifth place, after riding for long time on seven. It was also the best result in the four days of the Afxentia for the Haibike-Ötztal rider.
Neff with back aches - Langvad goes her rhythm.
It was only in the 5,4 kilometre start loop, when a leading group at the womens race stayed together. Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing) decided to give it a go, when the leading group was in front of the first single track in the second of five laps. “I knew, I had to be first in the single trail. From there on, it went very well, riding my own rhythm. When I heard, I have 1:40 minutes to Margot, then I decided to take it carefully. I have pretty good shape, a very good basis to go into the Cape Epic”, the Dane showed herself happy about her third overall victory at the Afxentia stage race after 2010 and 2012.
Jolanda Neff (Stöckli Pro) was not able to fight for the overall classification against Annika Langvad. “The first 20 minutes it worked more or less, but then my back aches were too strong. I could not push anymore”, the 22 years old Swiss told. She lost more and more positions and time, so that it was Margot Moschetti, who overtook her in the classification to grab the second place.
The reason for the back ache was, that Neff was riding her new Stöckli mountain bike for the first time. “I knew, that it was not a perfect preparation, but I was so motivated to race here on Cyprus. I already had back ache the days before, but today it went horrible. Anyway, I had good time here”, Neff said after finishing 13th in the day and third on the overall, right before her country mate Kathrin Stirnemann (Haibike-Ötztal).
The Eliminator world champion was happy about her final stage “It was again better than the day before, that’s a good signal. Now I will recover for the Cape Epic”, Stirnemann commented.
Her companion in this upcoming race will be Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan-Merida). The 42 years old nine times world champion from Norway had a bad start, but then catched up more and more, finishing on fourth. “I had some problems to pass the other girls and I lost a lot of time. I have diesel engine in this time of the year, but I think it was okay”, Dahle-Flesjaa was saying.
Fifth place went to Yana Belomoina (Betch.nl Superior-Brentjens), who showed her best performance in these days.
Junior champ and masters master - Successful 19th edition
Junior world champion Simon Andreassen won every single stage and took the overall. At the last stage he added another 2:10 minutes in the overall against Matej Prudek (Cze).
“For sure it was a good decision to come to Cyprus. I enjoyed racing and the beautiful trails around here”, the Dane explained. Andreassen missed to rise his hands in the air, when he crossed the finish line. The reason: “There was an average of 340 watt on my computer and I did not want to go under this level”, he said smiling. Therefore he did not stop pedalling. It’s all about self set objectives.
Atlanta Olympic champion Bart Brentjens (Betch.nl Superior) had no real challenge and rode to the victory in the masters category. “It was good to ride the Afxentia. The cross country race, I am not used to anymore, was hard. For me it was a pretty good preparation for the Cape Epic”, the 46 years old Dutch said.
“We are happy to complete the 19th edition of the Afxentia stage race successfully and we can say it was one of the best ever. From the sportive sight with good fights between world class riders and from the side of organization also. The feedback of the riders were good, they were again happy with the format and the race. Congrats to all finishers”, Mike Hadjioannou from organizing Bikin’ Cyprus agency commented.
“We are looking forward to the final day of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup at Amathous next Sunday.”