Denmark's Marathon World Champion, Annika Langvad, won the third stage of the Afxentia Stage Race in Lythrodontas, Cyprus, despite a puncture, and narrowly took the yellow jersey from Anna van der Breggen. Russian, Timofei Ivanov, won the sprint finish of a nine-man leading group ahead of Jan Skarnitzl from the Czech Republic, who defended his overall lead.
Annika Langvad (Specialized Racing) and Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) once again demonstrated their strength on the third day. The Dane and the Dutchwoman pulled away from the competition on the first climb and were already reported with more than a minute advantage after 20 kilometres.
It was another day of teamwork, offering the perfect opportunity to prepare for Cape Epic. "We talked to each other and I tried to show her the way on the downhill, that definitely helps," explains Annika Langvad in view of the stage race in South Africa.
But in the downhill after the second feed zone, between kilometre 43 and 46, the teamwork was suddenly over.
Langvad suffered rear wheel failure. The five-time World Champion sent van der Breggen ahead and then had to let Sina Frei and Lisa Pasteiner (both Ghost Factory Racing) pass. But the 34-year-old proved her class, and after a wheel change at the third technical zone, she started a great catch-up. She overtook the two Ghost riders and closed the gap back to van der Breggen.
"After the change, I put the pressure on. Anna then said I should just go on and that's what I did”, she said.
The difference between the two Specialized colleagues was 37.8 seconds in the finish, two seconds more than the gap before the stage. With this two seconds advantage, Annika is now in the leader’s jersey for the final cross-country stage.
Team work was also the name of the game for the two Ghost riders, Lisa Pasteiner and Sina Frei. A third teammate, Anne Terpstra, was in the mix until two punctures saw her drop back.
Pasteiner and Frei decided not to sprint against each other at the finish, but it was Pasteiner whose front wheel crossed the line third, 2:25 minutes after Langvad. In the overall standings, the two are separated by just under two seconds.
"We said the cross-country race will decide the third place overall," explained Lisa Pasteiner. The Junior World Championship silver medallist of 2016 may not be the favourite, but the Austrian is happy about her form. "I honestly did not expect that, especially on such long stages in a stage race. The short stage on Thursday was still understandable, but I also felt good today, "said Pasteiner.
Men: Leading duo of Miltiadis / Grotts are overtaken
On the 17-kilometer climb, before the Kakokefalos singletrack, Howard Grotts launched an attack, but the American had a companion. Amazingly, it was Andreas Miltiadis, the Cypriot star who had already secured a third place on Stage 2.
At km 48 in the third feed zone, Grotts and Miltiadis had 23 seconds advantage over a chasing group of eight, including the yellow jersey of Jan Skarnitzl. The Czech then began to push the pace, working together with Bartlomej Wawak, winner of Stage 2. The pursuers absorbed the leaders and ten kilometres from the finish it was a ten-man lead group.
The American, Christopher Blevins (Specialized Racing), launched an attack that was followed by German, Georg Egger (Lexware mountain bike team), but it didn’t stick and the pack regrouped.
Three kilometres from the finish, Wawak suffered a puncture. Timofei Ivanov could take over the lead position on the winding track towards the finish line and from there he did not give it up and could celebrate his first Afxentia stage victory.
"I had some problems at the first climb, but after the long downhill I was on the group and then focused on the finish. Such twisty passages suit me ", Ivanov explained. "I had a good winter and have already done some stage races."
Jan Skarnitzl (Mitas Mercedes-Benz Praha Trek) wanted to defend his leader’s jersey on this third day. "That was the goal," confirmed the Czech. "When Howie attacked, I was already at the limit, but then we could catch up with him again. I invested to defend the Leader Jersey. The pace was very high today and the race very tough. "commented Skarnitzl, who crossed the finish line 3.5 seconds after Ivanov (2:28:28).