Jordan Sarrou leads in the long single trail, Jaroslav Kulhavy before his puncture still in sight ©Thomas Weschta/EGO Promotion
It was Stage One winner, Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing), who decided the second stage of the Afxentia stage race. However, it was not voluntarily. The Olympic Silver Medal winner of Rio 2016 suffered a flat tyre in the longest downhill section and blocked the riders behind him.
This gave Jordan Sarrou (BH-Sr Suntour-KMC) and Sebastian Carstensen Fini (CST Sandd American Eagle) the chance to escape.
The duo maintained their race lead at thirty to forty seconds almost to the last
climb. However, Carstensen Fini fell heavily in a corner and lost contact with Sarrou who, known as a strong climber, then pulled away on the five kilometre ascent to take the win by fifty-one seconds. Bartlomej Wawak (Kross Racing) caught Carstensen Fini in the last fifty metres of the climb. The Dane fought valiantly to stick to Wawak’s wheel and could hold on to third place, fifty-eight seconds behind his break-away companion, Sarrou.
Jaroslav Kulhavy lost about two and a half minutes from his puncture, but in the pursuit he gave full gas and managed to close the gap to the chasing group by the final climb. He eventually finished seventh, one minute behind Sarrou. In the general classification he is now second, just 13 seconds behind Sarrou, and keeps his chances for overall victory.
Jordan Sarrou: "When Sebastian crashed, I just tried to give everything in the climb to keep the lead. I am happy about this stage because I was in the lead after the downhill and very happy about the victory. But for the overall classification, the cross-country race will be decisive on Sunday. "
Bartlomej Wawak: "It is the same every year, the climb to Lefkara is super tough! Only my team colleague Fabian Giger and the Austrian Karl Markt worked in the group so we stopped catching Jordan and Sebastian. I myself felt good and am pleased that I was on the podium. "
Sebastian Carstensen Fini: "The crash happened to me because I was too close to Jordan's rear wheel and had not seen the ground. I then tried to cope with the climb as quickly as possible to defend the podium. I felt good all the time. Now it hurts and I'll probably have to have stitches.“
Jaroslav Kulhavy: "When I had the flat tyre, I was sure the race was over for me. Fortunately, the Technical Zone came earlier than in the previous years. I lost maybe two and a half minutes but then I went pretty crazy quickly afterwards! Now I'm back in the game, there are still two stages. I am very satisfied with my shape. "
Ladies: Michiel's strong start at the final climb
As in the men’s competition, it was the long downhill that shaped the race. Ukrainian, Yana Belomoina (CST Sandd American Eagle), was in the lead when she got a puncture. The World Championship Bronze Medallist from 2015 lost ten minutes, and with that, all her chances for the overall.
Her bad luck brought Sabine Spitz (WIAWIS) into the leading position, riding thirty to forty seconds in front of Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Merida Gunn-Rita). The Norwegian then got company from Hungarian Barbara Benko (Focus XC), Githa Michiels (Versluys) and the yellow jersey wearer, Dutchwoman Anne Terpstra (Ghost Factory Racing).
Githa Michaels showed a strong come back and won stage 2 ©Andreas Dobslaff/EGO-Promotion
When the chasing group entered the last climb, Michiels started her attack. Unfortunately, with the attack she moved across the road which forced Benko into a wall. The Hungarian Champion had to stop, and in doing so she lost her competitors.
Michiels showed herself to be very strong in the uphill, reaching Sabine Spitz around two kilometres to go and passing the German to win the stage with twenty-six seconds. Dahle-Flesjaa finished third, thirty-two seconds back, and Benko fourth at fifty-four seconds.
Michiels now leads the overall with twenty-four seconds in hand over Benko and twenty-eight ahead of Spitz.
Githa Michiels: “I did not expect this win at all. I did not feel really good and blew myself up in the first climb. So I took it easier, because I knew that the last climb will be very hard. I found a good group and was able to catch back. I enjoy this moment and tomorrow we will see what’s going to happen.”
Sabine Spitz: “When we passed the Dipotamus Dam, I took a look back and saw that there was a chasing group. I was able to keep the advantage until the last climb. When Githa came close to me, she passed me immediately. I did not want to overdo it, but I am more than satisfied about my performance.”
[Sabine Spitz had to undergo a surgery in autumn 2016 and started late with her season preparation.]
Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa: “I was suffering like hell, probably as all the girls did. I can’t complain about my performance, after a sinus infection the week before I came to Cyprus. I tried to go my own speed. When we started the last climb, I thought, ‘oh my god’, but here everybody has to suffer. Today I had a lot of fun in the landscape – without flatting like yesterday.”