More than 140 riders are registered for the second leg of Cyprus Sunhine Cup, the Afxentia Stage Race, coming up this weekend. Three days of competition in the Macheras Forest await riders from 25 different nations. Both winners of round one of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, Czech Jan Skarnitzl and Dane Annika Langvad will be racing to defend their lead in the overall Cup competition.
The Afxentia stage race is named after Grigoris Afxentiou, a Cypriot freedom fighter who was killed by the British in the Macheras Mountains.
Racing will kick off with a 7.4km time trial on Friday. A point-to-point race and a cross country will follow on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Among the 100 elite men registered, last weekend's Jan Skarnitzl (Giant) will take on marathon World Champion Roel Paulissen (Cannondale), who had bad luck with mechanicals last weekend at Voroklini.
Jaroslav Kulhavy (Rubena Specialized) is another favorite. He'll be racing his first Afxentia. The second day, with its 42km point to point race, and the third day, a cross country race, are expected to suit him well.
Brazilian champion Henrique Avancini is aiming for the podium after losing his saddle while riding in the leading group at Voroklini. His ISD teammate Periklis Ilias also lost a lot of time last weekend with a flat tire. Ilias, the winner of 2009 Sunshine Cup, will be trying to make up for his bad luck.
Other men expected to be in the running for the podium are Christoph Soukup (Merida), Emil Lindgren (Rabobank-Giant) and Thomas Litscher (MiG).
In women's race it will be interesting to see whether Annika Langvad (HMTBK) can repeat her dominant win of round one. All eyes will also be on 18-year-old Ekaterina Anoshina (Primorsky District), a young Russian who rode onto the podium last weekend, surprising many.
Although Janka Stevkova (CKEpic Dohnany) said last Sunday that she didn't want to push too hard in her very first race of the season, she may be up for a tougher effort this time around.
2007 Junior World Champion Alla Boyko (ISD) has just arrived in Cyprus and will start the stage race. She'll be joined by another new arrival, Elisabeth Brandau (Haibike), who placed fifth at the 2009 marathon worlds. Hanna Klein (Rothaus-Cube) and her teammate Barbara Benkó will also be at the start.
Two others to watch include Alexandra Engen (Rothaus-Cube) and Julie Krasniak (Look). Both are expected to be serious contenders for the overall podium.
With riders from 25 nations on the start list, organizer, Mike Hadjioannou is excited about the weekend's racing. "That's a new record, and it shows that the Cyprus Sunshine Cup is growing. We are very happy with that," he said.