In Lythrodontas the Hungarian Champion, Barbara Benko, won a sprint finish of four in front of Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Nor) Sabine Spitz (Ger) and Githa Michiels (Bel). Thirty minutes earlier, Jaroslav Kulhavy (Cze) won his second stage and took over the yellow leader’s jersey from Jordan Sarrou (Fra). Bartlomej Wawak (Pol) took third place out of four-man chasing group.
The empire strikes back!
One day after his bad luck with a flat tyre, 2012 Olympic Champion, Jaroslav Kulhavy (Specialized Racing), showed a classy performance to dominate the 66.2 kilometre point-to-point in Lythrodontas, especially in the last six kilometres.
Jaroslav Kulhavy in locomotive-superfast mode! Not to be beaten in flat sections!
It was eight man leading group which climbed towards the highest point. Before the entrance of the fifteen-minute single trail, the bunch started sprinting to get the best position: Kulhavy was first, followed by the yellow jersey of Jordan Sarrou.
Bartlomej Wawak (Kross Racing) was in third position, but he could not follow the speed and lost some seconds. Meanwhile his team mate and defending champion, Fabian Giger, punctured his rear wheel during the downhill.
Sarrou and Kulhavy were riding together until the last, short and steep climb. Then the Czech attacked.
“I recognized that Jordan always lost some seconds in the short climbs. So I pushed really hard in the last one and got the gap”, Kulhavy explained.
The following six kilometres were a real ‘Kulhavy Show’. He rode like a locomotive and took a very impressive 1:01 minute from Sarrou, and thus jumped into yellow.
A further twenty seconds back on Sarrou, a group of four was fighting for the third spot on the podium. It was Bartlomej Wawak who had the most reserves left and won the sprint in front of Dutchman Hans Becking (CST Sandd American Eagle) and Austrian Karl Markt (Möbel Märki).
Notably, Becking was riding on the wheel of his team mate, British Champion Grant Ferguson, who, after having suffered with illness in the previous days, offered his wheel to Becking after the latter punctured.
Kulhavy goes into the last stage with a lead of fifty seconds to Sarrou. In third position sits Jan Skarnitzl (Cze, Sram Mitas Trek), who is 1:47 minutes back. Skarnitzl came in sixth position today.
Following his crash on Friday, Sebastian Carstensen Fini (CST Sandd American Eagle) had to have nineteen stiches in his elbow, so he did not take a lot of risk in the downhills, and suffered in the uphill. He finished in a very credible sixteenth but lost all chances for a top spot in the overall.
Jaroslav Kulhavy: “Flat sections are my strength and I knew that. I am really happy with my performance. That’s pretty good before the Cape Epic.”
Jordan Sarrou: “Jaro is so strong on the flat, I had to take his wheel, but when I lost it, I had no more chance. He was too strong. Anyway I am satisfied with my performance. Tomorrow will be the decisive stage.”
Bartlomej Wawak: “I am actually happy. I felt good and tried to fight for another podium. I am looking forward to the last stage, which will be another challenge.”
Women: Michiels makes the mistake, Benko takes the win
After 66.2 four women arrived together in Lythrodontas, fighting for the stage win. But the whole story was much more varied than this arrival showed.
Barbara Benko was strong, not only in the sprint finish, but the whole stage. Here she leads the bunch in front of Sabine Spitz and Czech Jana Czeczinkarova
First, Swede Alexandra Engen (Ghost Factory Racing) took advantage of her strong technical skills and left the first group behind. Then Barbara Benko (Focus XC) attacked in a single trail and Githa Michiels (Versluys) followed. They passed Engen during the long climb up to highest point. Behind them Sabine Spitz (WIAWIS), Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa (Merida Gunn-Rita) and the young Czech rider Jana Czeczinkarova (Sram Mitas Trek) were riding together.
One kilometre before the entrance of the long single trail down to Mantra tou Kampiou, Michiels attacked Benko and went into the trail with a gap of around ten seconds. However, Benko was able to close again, and Spitz, Dahle-Flesjaa and Czechinkarova did the same. The Czech then lost contact and so a quartet headed together towards the finish.
With 150 meres to go, Benko was able to take advantage as Michiels blocked the path of Dahle-Flesjaa and went on to take her first ever win at the Sunshine Cup.
Benko remains in second place, 20 seconds behind Michiels and five seconds in front of Sabine Spitz, as the race enters the final stage.
Barbara Benko: “Finally a win, I am happy. That’s great after the crash yesterday, where I broke my small finger. It hurts a bit, but is not a real handicap. In the long single trail, I was not able to pass Githa, so the others were able to close the gap. But at the end I made it.”
Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa: “I cannot believe that I made it to the second place, it’s a miracle. I was dropped about 15 times and always came back. The downhill was really fun as always, but I was happy that Sabine with her full suspension was riding in front of me, that made it easier. At the finish unfortunately Githa went into me in the corner, so Barbara could pass.”
Sabine Spitz: “Today I was struggling a lot with my gear shifts. After 12 years I have changed from Sram to Shimano and they are different. I have to work on it. So it was not so easy today, because due this problem I lost a bit of energy. Anyway, I am satisfied about my performance.”
Githa Michiels: “The last part of the race is really fast, so I waited for the others. I knew, they wanted me to be in front. When it comes to the finish, I am not so good in tactical things. I took the corner badly and was just happy that I did not crash. It’s just one day left now and I will do my best tomorrow, hoping that it is enough to keep the yellow jersey.”