21st Afxentia Stage Race / Reflecting on Amateurs Feedback
The Afxentia Stage Race has successfully completed its 21st edition. Mountain bikers from twenty-five different nations enjoyed four days in Cyprus; four sunny days on great trails in impressive landscapes and a friendly atmosphere. The Afxentia is certainly worth racing, and not just for professionals.
Saturday morning in Lythrodontas, and the start of the third stage of the Afxentia Stage Race is coming. In the small village at the foot of the eastern Trodoos mountains, it becomes more lively every minute.
The sun warms the air to a pleasant temperature and conjures a satisfied smile amongst those gathered. From all corners of the village, mountain bikers are riding through the town centre in colourful jerseys, and the empty chairs in front of the cafes will soon be occupied.
Cypriot coffee and frappe are served, lively music glides through the streets, and the buffet of beverages, fruits, olive oil and sweet treats is carefully laid out.
The many children of the Lythrodontas Cycling Club ride their small bikes across the square, weaving between the professional stars who are happy to be part of Afxentia and to absorb the sporting atmosphere.
London Olympic Champion, Jaroslav Kulhavy, pedals along, relaxed, and goes to warm up ahead of the stage start. Champions and hobby bikers alike exchange a few words between each other. The three-time Olympian, Sabine Spitz, is mixed up in the hustle and bustle, and the Swede, Alexandra Engen, happily gives a few autographs.
There is still forty minutes to the start of the third stage and everything feels wonderfully undisturbed.
Reasons for choosing Cyprus:
Breathtaking views and trails with flow.
Stunning scenery exists along every kilometre of each stage; the Mediterranean mountain landscape typifies Cyprus and the Cyprus Sunshine Cup.
At the beginning and end of each stage the riders enjoy the beautiful, historic town squares and in between is what the mountain bikers especially love: long climbs which are rewarded with breathtaking views and technical but flowing trails which go on and on!
These routes are not just for the professionals, but equally aimed at amateurs who simply pursue their passion and book a cycling holiday to have fun. Stefano is in Cyprus for the first time:
"It is absolutely great," the Italian, who lives in Salisbury, UK, says without hesitation. "These four days were the best I have ever experienced on a mountain bike. I absolutely recommend this, every mountain biker should have come here and have a go. I can assure that I'll be back next year. "
Experiencing the professionals at first hand is a unique experience and some of what makes the race so fun. Belgian journalist Simon Lamon really wanted to enjoy a little of the trails and then report on the Afxentia race.
"We drove the tracks and I liked it so much that I decided to ride myself," says Lamon, who has no race license and is known as a true hobby biker.
"Of course I was not well prepared, but I must say it could not have been better. The scenery and the trails are great, the temperatures are optimal at this time of the year and the race is well organized. It's all there to be fun," explains Lamon, pointing to another aspect that makes Afxentia interesting for MTB enthusiasts:
"It's a special thing when you warm up and suddenly you are next to Jaroslav Kulahvy. It is exciting to experience the professionals so close up."
and a table with local delicacies
The newly designed Stage One time-trial is also a tribute to hobby bikers. It is mainly downhill and is really focussed on fun, even if two rather sharp climbs are still included. This format received a lot of positive feedback from the participants. "We will continue to work on this," promises Mike Hadjioannou from the agency Bikin' Cyprus Event Management.
"The Cyprus Sunshine Cup in general and the Afxentia Stage Race in particular have become an integral part of the competition calendar for the professionals. But we also have a lot to offer for hobby bikers. We want to focus even more on this in the future."
Thus, the stages of Lythrodontas and Lefkara can become even more lively in the coming years. And the table of local delicacies, which will be served during the race, will be longer. The well-known good food in Cyprus does not play an insignificant role in the overall package!