Annika Langvad and Jan Skarnitzl took the last win at the Afxentia stage race, while Fabian Giger and Jolanda Neff (both Sui) in Macheras completed their overall victories. In the cross country race Neff came into second in front of Blaza Klemencic (Slo). Skarnitzl won the stage in front of Ondrej Cink (Cze) and Fabian Giger.
The final cross country race at Mantra tou Kampiou was influenced by the overall standings. Fabian Giger tried to defend his overall lead. “The stage was not so important. I was looking on Ondrej Cink and tried to keep him”, Giger explained his action in the seven man leading group.
Cink at the beginning attacked but could not hold the lead. “I lost too much power on it and for some laps I had to fight to keep the leading group”, Cink confessed.
Meanwhile his country mate Jan Skarnitzl accelerated in the third of five laps (per 5,7 km plus Start-Loop of 4km) and escaped.
“I am used to train in the wind. So maybe that was an advantage when I was riding solo in front. I was angry all the days without my normal bike, which is still at the airport in Vienna. And also with the mechanicals in day 2 and 3. So I am happy that my good shape finally came to a result”, Skarnitzl told.
The gap to the chasers was growing. “At the end my leading position nearly got in danger by Skarnitzl. He was really, really strong. Finally we made it and I am happy to start into the season by repeating my overall win from last year. My goal in this strong peloton was the podium, now I have the victory, that’s perfect”, Fabian Giger explained, who had support by team mate Emil Lindgren.
Surprisingly it was Ondrej Cink who found his power back. “I got a coke at the feeding zone and then I could go again”, he explained. Cink entered the chasing group, went through and attacked to finish second with a strong last lap (1:00 minutes behind Skarnitzl).
“Of course I am happy with my second in the overall. I think my shape is good”, Cink mentioned.
Skarnitzl by his win, was able to jump from sixth place to the overall podium, passing Marco Fontana (Ita, Cannondale Factory Racing), Florian Vogel (Sui, Scott-Odlo), and Julian Schelb (Ger, Multivan-Merida). The 21 years old German on this day could not hold the speed of the leading group and crossed the finish line as seventh.
Florian Vogel lost his third place and finally was classified as fourth. Despite of that, Vogel showed himself very pleased about his first appearance at Afxentia. “I must say, these were four really nice days. The stages were not too long and I like the concept as well as the tracks. There was a lot of fun. Good job”, he commented. Also he was fine with his personal performance. “I think, I am on a good way.”
Vogel finished fifth on the stage, 1:13 behind Skarnitzl and five seconds behind Emil Lindgren (Swe, Giant Pro XC), who was fourth of the day, one second behind Fabian Giger.
Annika Langvad switches into race mode
After start loop of four kilometre and half of the first complete lap, Annika Langvad took the lead from Adelheid Morath, while Jolanda Neff could follow her. The Danish and the Swiss left the rest behind.
In the second lap Annika Langvad realised that Neff was fading. “I felt not like being over the limit. So I decided to continue my own rhythm”, Langvad explained how she started her solo to win the last stage.
“I switched in the race mode today. This morning I felt, that it could happen. First, in the warm-up I was in doubt again, but after spinning for half an hour, the feeling came back”, Langvad explained while laughing. “I am happy to have this final in the Afxentia.”
Despite getting more and more time, Jolanda Neff never was in danger to loose her overall lead. At the end, there was a 1:35 minutes gap to Langvad, but she could defend her second position on the last day.
“Today my goal was the overall and it is pretty cool to get this yellow jersey. Of course, I felt a little bit tired after three days, but probably most of the girls does. I have two second places and two stage wins. How could that be better?”, Jolanda Neff commented on her Afxentia appearance.
Adelheid Morath could not go the speed of the leading girls. “I realized immediately, that this day is not the same as the last few days. So I tried to ride safe, in both, technical and physical way. At least I am very happy with the third place in the overall”, Morath said after finishing on seventh place.
Blaza Klemencic was in the unlucky position to be behind Adelheid Morath, when it came to the escape of Neff and Langvad. “I could not react at this point. But I am really happy, to be on the podium. Day by day it went better and cross country, that’s what I like the most”, the Slovenian commented.
Sabine Spitz (Ger, Haibike) third day in a row took the fourth place. “It seems, I have a regular on the wooden medal. But anyway, I am very pleased with my performance, compared to last year”, she said.
Nine time world champion Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Nor, Multivan-Merida) made it to fifth. “Hey, today I was kind of in the race. I could fight with the other girls”, she laughed. “I felt not really good, but these four days were much more, than I expected. The strength is there”, the Olympic gold medallist of 2004 explained.
“Finally we are very happy with the four days and the new concept of Afxentia. Special thanks to the communities of Lefkara and Lythrodontas and the help of Cyprus Tourism Organization to make this happen. We had the highest quality of riders ever and we had riders out of 27 different countries, that’s great”, organizer Mike Hadjioannou commented.