After a three-year hiatus, Cyprus will offer the traditional opening race of the MTB season, although this time in a different format.
The turn of February and March used to be the traditional MTB season opener in Cyprus and the big names of the world XC scene regularly competed on the local race tracks. Cyprus has always attracted not only good race organization, but also beautiful nature and favorable Mediterranean climate. The last edition of the Cyprus events took place in 2020, just before the start of Covid. Not only because of Covid, but also because of the need to change the format of the races, this tradition was suspended for four years. The cyclists were originally scheduled to compete in Cyprus last season, with three XCO C1 races planned for the autumn, but the organizers eventually abandoned their efforts in order to prepare a quality event for the Olympic year
Traditional Cypriot races in the past have offered both XCO events and, most notably, a stage race, which was called Afxentia. The latter saw its debut in 2020 when it was held as a four-stage pairs race. However, ahead of the 2021 season, the UCI decided to put stage races of this format (i.e. races that combined shorter marathon stages with a time trial and XCO or XCC) on ice and only count points from cross country races in the XCO rankings. The organizing team took a break from organizing the series.
In the 2024 season, there will be three C1 races for the bikers who will go to Cyprus to collect points. All three will be held on different courses and in different locations, unlike the races on the Greek island of Salamina or in Sparta, Greece. Two of them will be held on proven tracks and one on a brand new track.
The 2024 edition will start on Wednesday 21 February near Limassol at the famous Amathus track. On Saturday, February 24, it will be run on a new track in the village of Tochni and the series will culminate on Sunday, February 25, in the Macheras Mountains on a proven track in the setting of Mantra tou Kampiou Park, where the last leg of the Afxentia has been run in the past since 1997.
The organising team has always boasted a large turnout of some of the world’s best XCO riders, but this year we can’t expect them to be as plentiful as before. In fact, the Cyprus event is competing with two HC races in Spain (in Chelva and Banyoles), where the highest representation of top bikers can be expected, as well as the increasingly popular races on the Greek island of Salamina.