Taking to two wheels has become, it seems, a national pastime! The hale and hearty are braving the roads to beat weekday traffic, families pedal along the Pediaios pathways of a Saturday, and lycra-clad enthusiasts head off to the hills of a weekend… Cycling in all its forms and for all sorts of purposes is really catching on. And if your family has been bitten by the biking bug, there’s an upcoming event that should be top of your calendar: the island’s annual mountain biking extravaganza The Cyprus Sunshine Cup. Granted, you’re unlikely to be taking part in this most exciting of sports but you will have the chance to see how the experts deal with the unique terrain that Cyprus has to offer…
Organised by Bikin’Cyprus under the auspices of the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) and the Cyprus Cycling Federation, this year sees the 22nd iteration of this unique mountain biking event. Split into two main event categories which begin this Thursday with the Afxentia (the second stage, Amathous, takes place at the start of March), the competition sees professional and amateur cyclists from all over the world taking to the trails of Troodos.
“With the best mountain bikers in the world a permanent feature of the race, more and more amateur riders are discovering the great riding the area has to offer, and enjoying lining up next to their idols for some unique early season racing,” organisers explain. Billed as “a playground for the World Elite of mountain bike racing”, the event will host 2012 Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy, 2017 World Championship bronze medallist Thomas Litscher, previous Sunshine Cup winner Grant Ferguson, 2016 Olympic Road Race Champion Anna van der Breggen, reigning Marathon World Champion and 2016 Cross Country Champion Annika Langvad (contesting the Afxentia stage race in preparation for the upcoming World Cup South Africa), and the U23 World Champion Sina Frei. But along with the professionals, the four stages of the Afxentia also see any number of amateur mountain bikers pedalling their stuff in what is one of the oldest stage race events in the UCI calendar.
Taking place from February 22 to 24, the Afxentia Stage sees bikers take on some of the most challenging – and exciting – terrain in Europe. “Due to its exceptional route, The Cyprus Sunshine Cup offers the opportunity to the top bikers to score many points in the UCI category, while giving the chance to amateur bikers to challenge their limits at the same stages,” organisers reveal. Categories include Non Licenced Riders, Juniors (17-18 years of age), Men/Women (19-29 years of age), Masters 1 Men/Women (30-39 years of age), Masters 2 Men/Women (40-49 years of age), and Masters 3 Men/Women (over 50 years of age) – ensuring there’s a place for everyone in the three-stage Afxentia.
The first stage, known as XCT – Lefkara, is a 14.5km time trial which begins at the Saviour Church overlooking Lefkara – a scenic start both for those who are racing and those who’ve come to watch the excitements. Passing through the narrow alleys of the village before descending to the Pentaschoinos River valley, this race sees a total ascent of 147 metres – so watch out for a few puffing amateurs en route!
The second stage, or XCP – Lefkara, is a punishing point to point. More than triple the distance (52.2km), this stage sees riders getting fast and loose, with the Lefkara centre start segueing into a gruelling climb up to the peak of Macheras (a total ascent of 2,000 metres-plus is listed!) before riders tackle a breakneck single-track trail back down to the village.
The final stage, XCP – Lythrodontas, sees the Afxentia move a few kilometres north, to its titular village. Taking in a roughly circular route, this point to point both begins and ends in the main square, an ideal viewpoint for those who’ve turned up in support. While the riders take on an ascent of nearly 200 metres in the 66.2km race, bystanders can take things a little easier: “The local community has embraced the race, and creates a festive atmosphere with traditional music, food and sweets!” organisers reveal. The same day and location also see the award ceremony taking place, so if there’s one stage to watch, this is it! Take the family along for a wonderful day out and – who knows – next year you may be fielding an entrant or two of your own in The Cyprus Sunshine Cup!
The Sunshine Cup
The Afxentia stage takes place from February 22 to 24, in and around the village of Lefkara. For more information on viewing or competing, call 97 803070, email [email protected], or visit cyclingcy.com