Athens Twilight is a spectacle whether you’re flying through the bumpy dark turns or watching from the other side of the barriers a couple beers deep with college girls at every turn of the eye. The University of Georgia is a really cool college town with tons of coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and breweries which along with all the people makes for an incredible setting for a race at night on a short, technical course.
The course this year was a bit different due to construction on the normal course. It was still a four-corner rectangle but had a considerable up-hill for a crit out of turn four up to the finish that made for a solid 80 efforts even while you were on someone’s wheel. To add to the spectacle of being a crit on a short, less than a k course, with inevitable crashes, the back stretch was a fast downhill into a fast and narrow left-hander that was lined with hay-bales along the curb and heaps of people waiting for a pile-up.
The narrow course made starting at the back a night-mare to get to the front as 100+ riders stung-out almost single file makes for quite a distance from the first to the last rider, of which I was in turn one. With guys opening up gaps, literally on the first lap, getting to the front quick was imperative and with a number of huge efforts on the front and back stretches I made it but after a break was already well established. With pretty much everyone else being content with the break lapping the field, my efforts to establish a chase group along with a bit of chasing to keep the break from lapping as quick where fruitless.
My teammate, David Guttenplan, nabbed the first lap prime so we started the night with some money but with eight guys lapping, our goal became just to get points for the overall week long endeavor. I was content with that as my early race efforts didn’t have me feeling great. We managed to survive the front the last few laps and both ended up top 15 which wasn’t stellar but was alright going into the next four plus one day of racing in California.
After finishing this race you’re a combination of being tired, jacked up from all the sport gels and potentially caffeine, and the adrenaline from a crazy race like that with so many people. You hear and feel that there are tons of people around the entire course while you’re racing but you don’t really look and take too much notice.. After though, once your heartrate comes down a bit, you see how crazy it is with people cheering you and saying great job as well as giving you beer hand ups for your effort. I’ve done a lot of races around the world and the big crits like this have a pedigree of their own. They’re nuts but they leave you wanting more. Well kind of. I could go for a 200k road race instead… but when you’re drawn by money, crits are where it’s at in the States.