Kessiakoff and Irmiger start season with wins

Fredrik Kessiakoff outsprinted Roel Paulissen for a season debut-winning performance this past weekend at the opening round of the Sunshine Cup in Cyprus. On a sunny and warm day, the Swedish Full Dynamix rider was fastest through the 45km event. Swiss racer Andreas Kugler finished third. The women's competition saw a largely solo ride from American Heather Irmiger (Subaru / Gary Fisher). Belgian Maaike Polspoel (Belgian National Team) took a surprise second place ahead of Ukrainian Natalie Krompets (ISD).

"For me, this has been the perfect start to the season," said Kessiakoff. "I wanted to win as a gift to my new team. Normally [former team-mate] Roel is more strongly than me in the sprint, but he went too soon. It was a beautiful contest and gives me enthusiasm for the 2008 season."

Kessiakoff and Paulissen spent most of the race off the front together while the rest of the riders battled for third.

"I took the sprint but the finish line didn't come," said Paulissen after his miscalculation in going for the line. "So I lost energy and motivation. But it's okay, we had a good race together and a lot of fun because we didn't attack each other when we were together. And the course was a nice one."

Irmiger got a gap at the top of the Kalavassos dam. She kept her speed steady and crossed the finish line alone after two hours, 23 minutes and six seconds, with an advantage of 1'24 over Polspoel. The 18 year-old Belgian woman was the surprise of the race as she was much faster than third placed Natalia Krompets, who finished 1'32 minutes later. Swiss marathoner Petra Henzi was one of the race's favorites, but she flatted twice and lost a lot of time.

"It was a long race for us women, and it was my first race this year," said winner Irmiger. "I didn't attack but was going my rhythm all the time. I kept it on because I knew my gap was not too big. It's my third time Cyprus, and I like it. There are a lot of wonderful climbs. It's great to start with a win, I'm happy."

See full coverage of Sunshine Cup #1.

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