Sooo, where to start.... There is always so many new impressions and things happening around you when you are traveling to new places. Friday morning at 4am Ryan and I left from Dublin to Cyprus after 2 hours of sleep and organizing and packing solidly for the evening before that. And Ryan had this crazy idea of building up his new 2009 Specialized S-works Epic, which had only arrived that evening. Ah well, why not make it harder for yourself if you can have it easy, right?
Anyway, we and our bikes made it safe and sound to Cyprus (or so we thought), where we are staying in a tiny village called Kalavasos. It really is tiny, consisting of narrow alleyways and bright stone paved roads and steps and loads of stone houses and flowers. It's actually really cute and we've got a really nice little courtyard and it even has a bike rental/tour place (whose importance will come apparent later).
The first race of the Cyprus Sunshine Cup starts only about 3km from here in Tochni and goes by the place in our village, ending about 200m from our front door. Yesterday we went to Tochni to sign in and to pre-ride the course. The first race of the cup is a cross country point to point race of the UCI C1 category, 48.3km long and 1787m climb for both Elite men and women. Details about the course and the profile can be found here.
And then I noticed. My handle bar had a really bad kink in it! It was so bad it's crazy we didn't notice it when we built up the bikes (but in all fairness, we only had 2hours of sleep and it was dark). It was definitely a no-go for going out on the pre-ride. So, where do you get a new handlebar in the middle of nowhere at 1:30h on a Saturday in Cyprus (I don't have a word of cyprese, or is it cypryc?) ?? Thank god for Mike, the organizer from the Cyprus Sunshine Cup. A really nice and very helpful guy. He called around and in no time he had a solution: The bike rental/tour place in Kalavasos (Cycle-in-Cyprus) kindly agreed to give me a lend of a stem and handlebar until I could organize myself a new one - no questions asked. So, we went back to Kalavasos and met the owner from Cycle-in-Cyprus who is actually from Sweden but spends most of his winter months here with his mate to run the bike guiding/rental business. A huge thanks to Cycle-in-Cyprus for their spontaneous support. So, guys, if your next trip goes to Cyprus, I can recommend this place! He also has a lot of local trail knowledge and gave us some advice about the course, since we wouldn't be able to pre-ride the whole thing.
Race day, nerve day. Bathroom 3 times. Warm-up, rain shower, bathroom again, call-up, mass start, off we go. 12 girls in my cat. I see a few girls in front and try to hang onto them. The course is very very rocky and a little dusty. Lots of climb - on loose rocky stuff. No power, this isn't fun, why are first races always so hard? Some really steep climbs, descents on loose rocky ground and lots of deep rain furrows (just like Ireland!). Scary stuff when fast. An open gate causes confusion, some people go the wrong way, we wait, somebody knows the right way. Some girls catch up. We go on. A puddle comes up and the guy in front of my splashes me from top to bottom - I'm well refreshed and all senses heightened. Still a few girls around me, some switching of positions. See Githa Michiels ahead and Petra Henzi overtakes me. Feed zone #1, calling out to Angelos (thank you!!), bottle hand-up works well. Overtaking Petra. More climb, we 3 girls are staying pretty close together (Githa Michiels, me and Petra Henzi, in that configuration for most of the ride). Still not in racing mode. Need to focus on the race. Focus! A deep (really deep!) river crossing. Feed zone 2 thanks goes to Theodores. More last technical climbing over loose rocky ground on steep furrowed switchbacks. Githa pulls away. Petra is left behind. Damn, I'm loosing her! Finally the top of the last climb, about 15km to go, and I finally (!) get my racing head on and start putting down the power - I see Githa pop up in the distance ahead of me and slowly reduce the gap. 10km to go, 5km to go. I'm getting nearer. 1km to go, she's 100m in front. 200m to go, she's 20m in front. I charge. I start sprinting, I pass her at 100m to go. Took her by surprise. Thank god I don't understand her language. Last few meters, and it's over. Relax....
Ryan thinks I came in 3rd or 4th. We'll see. We ride back to Tochni to pick up the car.
When we return to Kalavasos the results are up. I did come 3rd, wohoo! I was beaten by 10min by the Swedish national champion in 1st place and by 5min by the Italian national champion in 2nd place. The girl I beat in my sprint was the Belgian national champ - I put 7 seconds on her - and the other girl that was in our group of 3 was Petra Henzi, coming in 5th. Full results and cyclingnews.com report can be found here and a pic of the women's podium here.
A few more pics of the race can be found on mtb-live.com and I found one with me on it too.
Thank you as well to the Cypriot Shimano team for their tech support in the race. Oh, and my new 2009 Specialized S-works Epic rode really really well. Ryan managed to set up my shocks really nicely and it felt so natural. Amazing bike. Great for those climbs too.
Hope my racing instinct has been woken again with this race, looking forward to Sunshine Cup #2!