Men: Van der Poel takes dramatic stage
Women: German battle goes to Brandau
Second day of the Afxentia stage race offered a lot of action. After 48 kilometer cyclo cross specialist Mathieu van der Poel won his very first mountain bike race one second in front of Fabian Giger and four seconds in front of the new overall leader Grant Ferguson. In the women’s competition finally Elisabeth Brandau won her second stage 10 seconds in front of Adelheid Morath, both Germany. Jovana Crnogorac took third place, 2:21 back.
20 riders reached together the highest point of the stage, the first tech zone of the race, 18 kilometer were behind them. In the downhill the group lost only some riders until second feed zone at kilometer 25. Then, followed by another downhill, behind the third technical zone Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Corendon), 13 kilometers to go, used a small uphill section for an attack. The 21 years old Dutch escaped, also due to the fact that nobody in the group wanted to lead the chase.
But 2,5 kilometer before the finish, at the start of the final climb, Fabian Giger (Kross Racing) catch van der Poel. The Swiss attacked. “I was dead, he immediately had a gap of ten seconds, I think. But at the top of the climb, I did a final sprint and catched him again”, van der Poel describes the decisive situation.
200 meter before the finish, he passed the surprised Giger and took his first win in an elite mountain bike race.
“I thought I am clear, so I was surprised. It was a rookie mistake”, Giger said to the lost stage win. “It’s a pity, but anyway I am happy. My shape is good, I only should work on the tactics.”
Mathieu van der Poel was happy about his win, of course. “It was hard and I have to get used to it, especially to the long climbs. But it’s really, really nice here”, the cyclo cross world champion of 2015 told.
Third place went to Grant Ferguson (CST Superior Brentjens). The British guy reached the wheel of van der Poel at the final climb. “The last hill was hard, but I felt good. When Mathieu left, nobody wanted to lead. But then my team mate Rudi (van Houts) helped me and I could safe energy for the last climb.”
Ferguson now wears the yellow Afxentia leaders jersey, three seconds in front of Giger and 12 seconds to Mathieu van der Poel. Surprising man was the polish rider Bartlomiej Wawak (Kross Racing). He finished on fourth place, 9,8 seconds down. In the overall he is now 25 seconds. The Italian Luca Braidot (Forrestale) followed on fifth place (+0:25).
You probably would like to know, what happened to Florian Vogel (Focus XC), who won the time trial on Thursday. The Swiss had a puncture right before the second tech zone, but there was not wheel for him to change.
“The pace was not high, I believe the put the speed a bit down in the leading group, but there was no wheel. It’s really bad if you loose your chance to win, by such a thing”, Florian Vogel showed himself disappointed. He finished 25th, 5:17 minutes off the best time (1:47:49).
Also Manuel Fumic (Cannondale Factory Racing) flatted and lost more than seven minutes.
Women: Final climb a mental question?
Already at the climb to the highest point, a duo lead the women’s race nearly by two minutes. Time trial winner Elisabeth Brandau (Radon-EBE Racing) and Adelheid Morath (BH-Sr Suntour-KMC) together went into the long single trail downhill. At this point yesterdays second placed Sabine Spitz already was far back, because she suffered from a flat tire, two kilometer before the tech zone. Finally she finished on 21 (+9:41).
Morath at one point in the downhill hit a stone and crashed. She was able to continue, suffering of some pain by bruises on her right hip. Brandau in this situation did not push, so Morath was able to close again and together they reached the final climb.
“The final climb was maybe a mental question. It was hurting so much, I thought I must die”, Elisabeth Brandau told. “I didn’t thought that I could make it. The more happy I am now.”
Maybe it was also a question of pain. “I had some pain while pedaling, but I am super happy with my performance. The main thing is to get used to the new bike”, Morath said. “Lisa is in a super shape and this is a good motivation for me. It makes it easier for me to get in a race mode.”
The two Germans are now 19 seconds apart from each other.
Jovana Crnogorac (Serbian National Team) took the third spot on the podium. She was able to leave Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Multivan-Merida) at the final climb, grabbing her first podium. “After doing some races in Greek, I was training hard and previous week I was a bit sick. Yesterday I had a bad day with stomach problems, so I expected nothing for today. That’s somehow surprising to get third. The last uphill I went full gaz and I made it”, Crnogorac said.
MTB legend Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa was not unhappy. “It was not a result, but it’s okay. The legs are shitty, but this is how it is in this time of the year. Anyway it’s okay and I love it to be here on Cyprus.” The Norwegian was 2:43 back.
Githa Michiels (Versluys, Bel) came into strong fifth (+3:09) place, while with Julie Bresset (Fra, BH-Sr Suntour-KMC) another Olympic gold medalist beneath Sabine Spitz suffered from a flat tire, as 34th losing every chance to compete for the overall.
Short special notice: Kenneth Flesjaa, husband of Gunn-Rita Dahle, is also competing. He does it in the masters category. Today he finished behind his wife. “I tried to be in front of her, but was not able. But it’s a great event, I like to ride it and I am happy to be here”, Flesjaa said.
Some video staff from the stages you can find every day at the Cyprus Sunshine Cup Youtube channel
Dates oft he Cyprus Sunshine Cup 2016
February 25 to 28 - Afxentia stage race (SHC)
March 6 - Voroklini (C1)