I got a C for English at school. I didn’t enjoy writing, but yet, over the last two years I have developed a love for writing these blog posts. I hope with this one, that I have the words to describe the feelings associated with racing Athens Twilight Criterium.
Athens Twilight, I was told by many is the craziest, most unforgettable criterium in the States. There would be 30 000 drunk college students(there really was!) screaming at you, with them lining the home straight 5 deep, it was like riding through a passage of noise. It was exciting, exhilarating and electrifying all at once. Adrenalin pumping through your veins kind of stuff! To try put it into terms for those back home, I guess it must be similar to the emotions experienced by a rugby player playing a Super Rugby final.
I was also told it would be super hard, and it was. I knew positioning would be critical, especially following the mistakes I’ve made in prior races. Being in the front mix changed the game in a psychological way hugely for me. Instead of hanging on trying to survive, I was now racing. I followed moves off the front of the race and instigated more myself. This was the game plan, attack and get off the front. Finishing the race was not even a goal on the start grid.
However as the laps ticked away I was thinking to myself, wow I’m still mixing it up here. Let’s attack again, let’s keep on fighting.
The race was however not without drama. I destroyed a front wheel 20 minutes in with another rider rapidly changing lines, putting his rear derailleur into my front wheel. In addition to this I was caught behind a crash just over an hour in. SRAM neutral support managed to get me back into the race on both occasions and I am thankful for that.
Setting up Team Camp alongside the Athens course.
The Athen’s Crowds!!
Pre race day Computrainer Heats.
Approaching the last ten laps (of about a km each) I jostled for position, and pushed myself forward whenever the opportunity allowed. I was in the top 10-15 wheels with 2 laps to go until a rider stacked it in turn one, in front of me. Shit! I wasn’t hurt and managed to keep it fairly upright. It didn’t look like many guys had made it through, so I quickly got my bike out the mess, jumped back on cross style and pinned it for the next one and a half laps thinking I may still be in the money.
Turns out I wasn’t and I finished in 45th place. Although the race didn’t finish how I wanted it to, there were a lot of positives to draw from it and I was stoked on that. Junior Mint (aka Jake Hill) was mixing it up front with me as well and bagged a very solid 12th on the evening. DZ (aka Dan Zmolik) was the ticket conductor and kicked the boys off the bus as the laps went by. Brian unfortunately had mechanical issues and was in the showers early.
Let’s rewind a bit at this point. As I’ve mentioned before, we are racing Speed Week over the next 9 days where we will do 7 criteriums. Athens Twilight was the first and come yesterday we were off to Historic Roswell Criterium.
I was disappointed to learn that this wasn’t the same Roswell as the TV series from a few years back. Who remembers that? I loved it!
The improvised hotel room kitchen. Ice bucket ‘fridge’ and coffee machine ‘kettle’ (hot water to make my Future Life!)
Anyway, back to the racing. The weather forecast pretty much guaranteed we would be racing in monsoon like rain and we did. There was talk of the race being cancelled but ultimately it was shortened to 60 minutes. I was surprisingly excited about racing in the wet conditions. Partially due to the Stan’s tubeless road wheels we are running, which means that we can run the pressure down to 60 PSI and not risk punctures. You can imagine how sweet this is in the corners in the pouring rain.
With last night fresh in my mind I was eager to repeat the performance and “go one better” in a sense. A small field was on the grid and early on I found myself following a few moves. United Health Care aka the Blue Train, were taking no prisoners on the day and pretty much put their full squad on the front riding hard tempo the whole race, allowing no one to go clear.
A few guys did manage to snatch some primes, including Brian who snuck away for a lap.
I changed my race tactic with this in mind and tried to position myself to mix it up in the finale. This time, with two laps to (again) it wasn’t so much a problem out of my control that was the cost factor, but rather my own. My legs went kaboom and from sitting 10th wheel I faded horribly to somewhere around 30th.
More importantly all the boys came out of the race safely, where there were actually surprisingly few crashes.
Today, we have the day off. I’m back at home in Greenville chilling out a bit, drinking coffee and getting in a short spin. The next leg of Speed Week sees us venturing back off to the State of Georgia. Tomorrow we will take on the Coastal Empire Classic in Tybee Island and on Wednesday the Downtown Walterboro Criterium in Walterboro.
Be sure to check in on Thursday where I will bring you part two in my Speed Week experiences.
Until then, arrive derci!
Found this ‘interesting’ guy in Athens walking his bunny around like it was a dog!