Giant riders Jolanda Neff and Fabian Giger took second stage of Afxentia stage race and therefore the overall lead. After 52 kilometers with start and finish in Lefkara, Giger (Sui) could beat Ondrej Cink (Cze) and Julian Schelb (Ger), while his team mate let Annika Langvad (Den) and Adelheid Morath (Ger) behind.
In men’s race the situation in the front was pending. At the first climb, Giger and Cink (Multivan-Merida) were in front for a short time. Then five riders closed the gap and together they went down into the long single track from Kionia picnic site.
The group split in the downhillm but later on they were together again. Florian Vogel, who already struggled at the first uphill, closed the gap. Then yesterdays winner of the time trial, Jan Skarnitzl (Cze, Sram Rubena Trek) got a flat tire, lost the group.
The last four kilometres were steep climbing. Fabian Giger attacked, Ondrej Cink was the only one to follow. They were in touch until the last kilometre, when Giger accelerated again and took the stage win, 12 seconds in front of Cink.
“Today the feeling was good and the result is so. In the uphill sections I felt very good, but I think Jan Skarnitzl would have been a strong contender without his flat tire. It’s great to have such a good start into the season”, Fabian Giger commented.
Ondrej Cink finally was fine with his second place. “I felt very good today, but Fabian is a strong rider. He was attacking and I tried to keep the pace. I am happy with the result, it’s a good start into the season.”
Behind them Julian Schelb tried to keep his rhythm, lost the contact for short time, but was able to close again. Together with Florian Vogel (Sui, Scott-Odlo) he reached the finish straight. The u23 vice world champion was able to sprint out the former European Champion, taking third position on the podium.
“At the beginning I had to suffer to close a gap I got. Then I went in first position in the downhill and control. Afterwards the speed was going down a bit. It was rather clear, that Giger and Cink will be the strongest in the last uphill. I tried to keep my own rhythm in the climb and then I was able to outsprint Vogel on the finish straight. Think, I have done everything right”, Julian Schelb told after crossing the finish line 20 seconds off.
Florian Vogel missed the podium, but was not unhappy with his day. “The speed in the first uphill was too fast for me. I was able to come back together with Michiel van der Heijden because the gap never was really big. I felt good, and I was really excited about the cool single trail. That was a lot of fun and despite missing the podium spot, my balance is positive.
Marco Fontana (Ita, Cannondale Factory Racing) came into fifth position, despite having a crash. “It was a mistake, but finally it was not the big thing. I am okay with it”, he said.
Swede Emil Lindgren (Giant Pro XC) lost all chances by a flat tire right at the beginning of the race.
Women: Jolanda Neff flies through the downhill
The three podium ladies escaped already in the beginning of the race. After 15 kilometres Jolanda Neff (Giant Pro XC), Adelheid Morath (Sabine Spitz-Haibike) and Annika Langvad (Specialized Factory Racing) were leading with a confortable one minute gap.
The trio already the day before was on the podium. When it came to the single track down from Kionia, Jolanda Neff was able to leave Langvad and Morath behind.
The Swiss is well known as a fast downhiller. So this made the decision about the victory.
“I felt very comfortable today. The downhill was really cool”, Neff was smiling after finishing 2:30 minutes in front of the next competitor.
Behind her Langvad could escape from Morath. The time trial winner came closer at the end, but Langvad put in everything she had in the last uphill and crossed the finish line 23 seconds in front of Morath.
“I still miss the intensity, but when I saw Adelheid coming closer, I decided to test how my body reacts, when I go full gaz. It worked out and so I am happy with my day”, Langvad commented.
Adelheid Morath was also satisfied with the second stage. “It was clear, that Jolanda will attack in the downhill. I tried to ride safe, because I didn’t know the single track. Of course it was a disadvantage not to know it before”, she explained.
Her team mate Sabine Spitz missed the attack at the beginning. “There was a mix with the juniors and I could not follow. After that point, I was solo all the time. Anyway I am fine with my performance”, she said. Spitz was 6:32 minutes back.
Tereza Hurikova came into fifth after suffering already at the first climb. “I could not hold the speed. It’s mostly the same as always, but then it was going like someone switched me on and I could go faster”, Hurikova explained. She lost 7:25 minutes.