The second race of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup 2019 will feature two-time World Champion, Irina Kalentieva.
At Amathus the Russian will face stiff competition from, among others, Yana Belomoina and the trio of Ghost Factory Racing riders. In the men's race, the Czech Ondrej Cink will try to remedy what he did not achieve at Afxentia: a stage win.
Irina Kalentieva (Möbel Märki) is 41 years old but is still one of the best cross-country riders in the world, something she proved last year at the World Championships in Lenzerheide where she was tenth, despite not having had a good season due to health reasons.
However, in her first race of the season the 2007 and 2009 World Champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist will line up to a number of riders who have already got used to the intensity of competition thanks to the four-day Afxentia stage race.
The Dutch champion, Anne Terpstra, the Hungarian champion, Barbara Benko and also the surprise fourth place at Afxentia, Lisa Pasteiner from Austria, represent the colours of Ghost Factory Racing. They are all candidates for victory at the ancient ruins of Amathus.
The 2017 overall World Cup winner, Yana Belomoina (CSCT Sandd Bafang), will also race on Sunday although the Ukrainian was not quite up to speed at Afxentia. "My mind was ready, but after the break of my hand in August and a break of two months, my body is not ready yet," admits Belomoina. Nevertheless, she should be considered a podium candidate.
The Belgian champion, Githa Michiels (Primaflor Mondraker), was also not performing as she hoped last week but that could change in time for the stand-alone XCO event.
Men: Local Hero Brings Confidence
Apart from Bartlomej Wawak, the top riders of Afxentia will fight it out once again at Amathus on Sunday.
Jan Skarnitzl (Mitas Mercedes-Benz Praha Trek) comes to the cross-country circuit near Limassol with the confidence of an Afxentia winner. He will be mindful, however, of his compatriot, Ondrej Cink (Kross Racing), who made a very strong impression on the stages in the Machairas Mountains and definitely starts as one of the favourites.
David Nordemann (CST Sandd Bafang) took third overall last week despite tired legs and will look to bring some youthful flair to the XCO race. The Austrian, Karl Markt (Möbel Märki), got stronger and stronger during Afxentia and will hope to continue that trend, whilst Russian rider, Timofei Ivanov, must also be one to watch following his stage win last week.
It will be very interesting how the Cypriot, Andreas Miltiadis, will perform. The local hero mingled with the top riders during Afxentia, notably finishing third on Stage 2, and should start the race with confidence.
The 2017 Cape Epic winner, Matthias Stirnemann (Möbel Märki), said after Afxentia that he would still lack "the liveliness", but if he has recovered well, he hopes to "deliver a good race on Sunday".