My first international race of the year is now (literally) dusted and done: The Afxentia Stage Race at Cyprus. Never have I seen a stronger field at this race. Most of the strongest European women participated, which surely made it interesting.
Sebastian Fini was my travelling buddy for this trip. It has been great company and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have made it here in the first place. Despite booking my flight in good time as well as space for the bike on the flight, somehow the latter didn’t go through and when I realized the error, it was too late. The flight was absolutely full! So instead we managed to fit two bicycles into one suitcase. At least I now am familiar with almost every screw on my Epic, since the bikes were taken almost completely apart.
We (and also safely the bikes) arrived a week before the race, so we had time to put in some good training in the sunshine. As I’ve mentioned before, sunshine really suits my mind well. When coming directly from the more dark and cold North, I always get an extra boost when spending time in the sun.
We’ve stayed at a small and very ancient village, Tochni, which hosted almost all riders of the race. In the evenings we’ve cooked and hung out with a few old teammates of mine and time flew by very fast and all the sudden it was time for racing. The Race consisted of four consecutive days of racing and the total time after day four determined the overall ranking and eventually the winner.
The first days race was an individual time trial on an appr. 5 km course, that winded it’s way through the streets of Lefkara and altitude wise consisted of two long climbs. I had very good speed and power and made a third place, only 11 seconds after Adelheid Morath and 2 seconds behind Jolanda Neff.
Day two and three were similar to each other. Two point-to-point races, meaning long courses on each 45 and 39 km. In both races, it was Adelheid, Jolanda and me separating ourselves from the rest of the girls. Both days I rode steadily and strongly, but mentally my mind wasn’t for real in race mode. Even so, I made it in second position both days, which was very cool. Well actually, on day two, the finish was a 5km uphill and just before this uphill, I saw Adelheid over my shoulder and decided to give it a go, racing the last part to the finishline. That payed off, since she wasn’t able to follow the acceleration.
Day three was another strong day. Adelheid and Jolanda rode away on the first long climb, and I didn’t feel like riding above my limits to follow their pace. I actually thought, that I would never see them again, but all the sudden I saw Jolanda in front of me on a singletrail climb. Adelheid was gone, and Jolanda seemed exhausted, so I guessed, that the high pace of Adelheid had forced Jolanda to slow down. At the top of the climb, Jolanda attacked hard and got away with a group of guys before going into a long singletrail downhill. I rode at my own pace, enjoying the long sweet trail. Unfortunately it was impossible to enjoy it all way down, since a lot of guys were blocking the trail with a slower pace. All the sudden, I now also spotted Adelheid in front of me, and was able to pass upon exiting the singletrail. From here it went on dirtroads mostly downhill to the finish, and I rode fast to the finish ending up in second place again.
The only race left was the xco race. My agenda for the race was to secure my overall second position and give it a go leaving it all out there in my first international xco race of the year. Much to my surprise, I ended up winning with a comfortable lead. I still had power left in my legs despite the previous days, so I rode hard on the climb. On the downhill sections and the trails, I had the feeling, that I could recover very well, so I could hit the next climb hard. I went into “the zone”, where you don’t think much. It was just the same Rihanna song, repeating itself over and over again. On the way to the race venue before the race, the car radio had provided me with that fuel.
Besides great racing, this trip has also served as preparation for the Cape Epic. The terrain is very similar, dry and rocky, and I opted for the full suspension bike here on Cyprus, since that’s the one I’ll ride during the Cape Epic. That this bike is also very efficient for an xco race honestly was much a surprice to me, but now I have another weapon for the upcoming World Cup races!
Last but not least, I want to thank the Ghost Factory Racing for handling me bottles during the races! That’s huge spirit!