American XCO Champion, Howard Grotts, and Olympic Road Race Champion, Anna van der Breggen, were the winners on Stage 2 of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup, raced over 52km starting and finishing in Lefkara.
Van der Breggen’s win secured her the overall Elite Women’s race lead, while Lars Forster’s second place on the day gave him the lead in the Elite Men’s competition.
The Cyprus Sunshine Cup didn’t live up to its name today: it rained!
But that did little to dampen the spirits of the riders as they took on the 52km and 1820m ascent of Stage 2.
Just as the riders climbed out of Lefkara village the rain began to fall. This was just a short shower, but before long it set in to stay and the roads became rivers. Thankfully the course didn’t suffer from the weather and a great loop delivered some great racing.
Grotts Lays Down the Watts
Having just received his leader’s jersey from Stage 1, Litscher led out the pack from Lefkara. However, it was not long before the sickness that crept in yesterday began to hamper his efforts. By Feed Zone 1, located at the top of the main climb as the riders transition into the long, technical singletrack descent, he was conspicuous in his absence from the large lead group.
He finished Stage 2, but later decided to withdraw from the race. "The upcoming World Cup is more important", he said.
Leading the group was United States Champion, Howard Grotts, who was keen to set a high pace on the climb and drop into the downhill first.
Karl Markt, Lars Forster, David Nordemann, Sebastian Fini Carstensen, Titouan Carod, Matej Prudek, Guy Sessler, Grant Ferguson and Jaroslav Kulhavy made up the top ten behind him.
The gap that Grotts established was closed down on the subsequent forest tracks by Forster, creating a leading duo for a time. A crash from Grotts could have been the end of his chances, but Forster was evidently not wanting to lead alone to the finish and so sat up and waited for his companion. This allowed the chasing group to catch, and so with 10km to go there was around 12 riders competing for the win.
The pace slowed and the riders looked to each: who would make the move?
Fini Carstensen took on the task on the penultimate hill. This probing attack made a selection of threes riders – himself, Forster and Grotts. When they hit the final steep ascent at 3km to go it was Grotts who laid down the watts. Fini Carstensen and Forster could not respond.
The American Champion took the victory, and Forster held off Fini Carstensen to take second.
At the finish, Grotts was full of enthusiasm for the downhill singletrails and didn’t seem to care about the rain. Forster, too, was happy with his day out. Despite feeling that he is lacking some top-end power, the Swissman was able to push a good pace and is happy with his current form.
Grotts’ 12 second advantage at the finish was not enough to give him the overall leader’s jersey. That honour goes to Forster, with Fini Carstensen’s strong stage putting him into second. Grotts is third and tipped for another good result tomorrow.
Van der Breggen Delivers
Following her strong performance in the time-trial yesterday, Olympic Road Race Champion, Anna van der Breggen, was the one to watch for today’s stage. And she delivered.
The road ride climb that opened Stage 2 was certainly not going to cause Van der Breggen any trouble, but the long, rocky singletrack descent was an unknown quantity. Despite some nerves as she approached it, the Dutchwomen got down without any trouble. She was aware that she lost time on this section, but with more than half race distance still to go there was plenty of time to get pushing on the pedals.
For Annika Langvad it was another day of disappointment, with a puncture in the main descent losing her the lead of the race. That said, a strong first climb and an amazing chase saw her finish in fourth place which surely instills confidence in her form, if not her tyres.
Having overtaken Langvad, Van der Breggen was joined by Erin Huck and Sina Frei as they embarked on the long, fast forest tracks back towards Lefkara. The road racer was the more powerful of the trio and soon Huck and Frei were distanced. Frei, the U23 World Champion riding in her first stage race, was not able to stick with Huck and went about negotiating the rest of the longest race she’s ever done.
Just as they approached 1km to go, the young gun caught sight of Huck and chased as hard as she could. With a final surge of power, Frei caught Huck to secure second place. Of course, it was not through a lack of trying that Huck was caught; “I saw stars”, she said at the finish!
Van der Breggen won by an impressive 2 minutes and 24 seconds which gives her a good overall lead going into Stage 3. Frei and Huck take second and third respectively in the General Classification.
Tomorrow comes the Cyprus Sunshine Cup’s longest stage. The beautiful town of Lythrodontas hosts the start and finish, with 61km of Cyprus’ finest tracks in between. There is always a mouth-watering spread of local dishes at the finish, but the riders have an epic battle on their hands before they can enjoy these!
Full results here: www.activatecyprus.com/en/events/sunshinecup