Belgian Roel Paulissen and Czech Tereza Hurikova won the Afxentia Stage Race held in Cyprus over the weekend. Stages one and three also doubled as Rounds two and three of the Sunshine Cup. Sandwiched in between was an individual time trial which did not count toward the Sunshine Cup.
Belgian Roel Paulissen almost made it three wins in three stages, but Czech Jaroslav Kulhavy, who was the junior world champion in 2003, intervened on the final day. Paulissen won the opening cross country race and the individual time trial, but the young Czech took top honors in the final 43km cross country race.
In stage one, Paulissen took advantage of some confusion in the feed zone among his competition Fredrik Kessiakoff and Emil Lindgre to attack and ride away to an eventual victory. In stage two, Paulissen overcame a technical and demanding course, with steep downhills, to claim victory over Kessiakoff and Magnus Darvell.
After the final day of competition, Paulissen said, "I didn't want to take any risk in the downhills, and I was looking on the overall. It's good for Jaroslav to have this victory, but I'm also happy with my race. The last two days were very hard," Paulissen said.
In the women's race, not even a malfunctioning front brake could stop Sabine Spitz (Central-Ghost) from a final stage win, but it would be Tereza Hurikova (Czeska Sporitelna) who would collect the overall title.
In both the first and final stages, the women's race saw an exciting fight between Hurikova and Spitz. The 21 year-old Hurikova showed her strength on the singletrack, both going up and down, but veteran Spitz's greater strength and savvy netted her both wins.
Hurikova, who is used to - and good at - time trialing, especially on the road, showed her strength in the stage two time trial - going on to win after both Spitz and another favorite Petra Henzi declined to race. Hurikova finished 14th at the road world championships in 2007 in Germany and she won gold at the junior world championship time trial in 2004.
"I felt very good, not too exhausted from yesterday," said Hurikova after the final day's racing. "But when Sabine attacked my legs were hurting so much I couldn't follow her. I think my shape is much better than last year. I'm happy to get the overall victory."
In the final general classification, Paulissen ended up 5:11 ahead of Kulhavy. Third place went to Kulhavy's countryman Milan Spesny at 8:17 behind Paulissen. For the women, Hurikova grabbed the overall with 10:09 over Alexandra Engen and Elisabeth Osl.
The fourth round of the Cyprus Cup will happen next Sunday at Voroklini. In the overall ranking of the series, Paulissen is leading with 280 points ahead of Kugler (250) and Karl Platt (202). In women's classification Petra Henzi took the lead from Heather Irmiger (231) and Alexandra Engen (223).
See full coverage of the Afxentia Stage Race.