Today the 4 day Afxentia Cyprus Sunshine Cup stage race began with a tough 5.7km time trial. The town of Lefkara hosts stages 1 and 2, by midday today it was packed out with brightly coloured lycra and shiny carbon bikes. The race for many was the season opener and with Hors Category status the start list was not far off that of a World Cup XCO event.
The circuit twisted and turned its way out of the village through the alleyways and over the cobbles before launching out onto the open hillside. The climbs were rough and loose, the first took you up to the ridgeline before riders descended down the otherside of the hill to the tech zone, riders needed to be careful of the loose corners and concrete blocks waiting to remove bike parts. From there a short fast fireroad blast led riders to the climb back over the hill and onto the final descent back into town for more steps and cobbles.
The riders started the day setting off at minute intervals for their individual timetrial. With the Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors Cycling Team riders not starting their TT till 2:59 and 3:18 this left a long morning to fill so a spin down to the beach was a welcome opportunity to escape the pre race nervousness.
As previewed in previously there was a strong British showing at this race with riders hoping to pick up a few UCI points to help with World Cup qualification. Competition was strong in all categories, in the elite women’s race Adelheid Morath (Ger) won the 5,7 kilometer time trial in front of Jolanda Neff (Sui) and Annika Langvad (Den). Jan Skarnitzl took victory in the men’s elite category able to beat Florian Vogel (Sui) and Ondrej Cink (Cze).
Riders all commented and praised the demanding course which rewarded with fun descents. Jan Skarnitz, who scored the best time was surprised by his performance having been forced to ride on a rental bike, since his own bike missed the plane.
Florian Vogel missed the time of Skarnitzl by only four seconds. “First race is always special, but I was looking forward to the start of the season here on Cyprus. Here I can get the intensity, I need to get into top shape”.
Adelheid Morath was happy after here performance. “I felt good and was riding comfortable. After different training camps, I know that I am in a good shape, but you never know, if the body is really ready for racing.”
U23 world champion Jolanda Neff is well known for being able to put one really fast lap. “I felt very good. I would like to have more of this kind of racing”, the 21 years old said while smiling. She lost eleven seconds to Morath.
From the British riders David Fletcher came out on top putting in a storming ride to finish 18th just 7 seconds behind the Merida Multivan pair of Jose Antonio Hermida Ramos and Rudi Van Houts. Hamish Batchelor was next Brit home in 28th, Seb Batchelor in 39th, Jason Bouttell 53rd, myself 54th, Lee Williams 74th after an unfortunate puncture, Sam Stean 79th, Steven James 86th and Calum Riley in 96th. In the women’s elite the British riders are tightly packed with Maxine Filby in 38th, Imogen Buick 40th, Ruth Owen Evans 41st and Rachel Fenton 42nd.
Tomorrow the time gaps will open with stage 2 covering 31 miles and 4000 feet of climbing.