Stage 3 promised to be another hard day of racing, the course would cover 40km and 3800 feet of climbing starting from the host town of Lythrondontas. With 2700 feet of that climbing occurring in just 16km it was a test of who’d recovered well from yesterday. The Mediterranean island was covered by a light haze early on in the morning but hotter temperatures were forecast for later in the day.
The first half of the climb twisted along forest road with large groups developing. They remained together until about 10km into the stage where the course took riders up yesterday’s singletrack descent! What had been fun downhill switchbacks were now painfully steep stop start climbs. The cross country rides seemed to enjoy this section, my marathon legs couldn’t handle the effort losing places left, right and centre! When the climb finally topped out at 3700 feet riders sped along a short tarmac section before entering the narrow singletrack descent which rewarded those with energy in reserve. I just hung on for dear life letting the bike do the work! Once that was over we past feed 3 and began the forest road descent to the finish, pairing up with a rider from the Merida Wallonnie team we caught and past a few of the many riders who’d passed me on the singletrack climb.
A hard day for the Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Motors riders, I finished all the way down in 60th and Sam suffered a double puncture. We weren’t the only once suffering though, nearly everyone agreed that was another tough day with even former World Champion Ralph Naef telling us “that was fast” after he crossed the line.
It was the same result as yesterday for the two Swiss Giant team riders Fabian Giger and Jolanda Neff taking the third stage of the Afxentia stage race. After 39,9 kilometer Giger led his Swedish team mate Emil Lindgren and Ondrej Cink (Cze). Neff beat Annika Langvad (Den) and Adelheid Morath (Ger).
“Skarnitzl again was super strong and he delivered a super speed in the uphill single track. I could take advantage of another short climb and get another win. Everything worked out perfect today, it was cool and I had a lot of fun”, Giger commented.
For Emil Lindgren his second position was a kind of compensation for the day before, when he flatted early. “That shows that I could be in front yesterday as well (without the puncture). I felt really good. In the uphill the others were a bit stronger, but I was able to come back. Nice success for the team today”, he said. Lindgren was 7.8 seconds back.
Jolanda Neff was the Downhill Queen. The 21 years old Swiss used the long single trail downhill to the Mantra tou Kampiou picnic place for her attack.
“For me it was clear, that Jolanda will pass me. I tried to ride safe. I am not so far, that I can compete with Jolanda in the downhill and on the winding dirt road I was not able to push hard”, Morath explained. “But I am really happy. Everything is like it should be at this time.” The German lost 2:16 minutes to Neff.
From Britain David Fletcher finished 23rd, Seb Batchelor 25th, Lee Williams 32nd, Hamish Batchelor 38th, Jason Bouttell 42nd, Steven James 82nd and Callum Riley 94th. David Fletcher sits highest in the general classification is 26th place. In the women’s Maxine Filby finished 31st, Ruth Owen Evans 35th, Imogen Buick 37th and Rachel Fenton 38th. Maxine Filby is best placed Brit in the general classification in 29th place.
Tomorrow the Afxentia Stage Race finishes with a XCO race around a 3.52 mile circuit. With lots of UCI points on offer the racing is sure to be fast once again.