John Murphy defended his first-place 2017 title this year. His teammate Bryan Gomez came in second with Frank Travieso coming in third.
1. John Murphy (Holowesko | Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources)
2. Bryan Gomez (Holowesko | Citadel p/b Arapahoe Resources)
3. Frank Travieso (EDA Cycling) pic.twitter.com/vMcrbvaoGC
— USA CRITS Series (@USACRITS) April 29, 2018
2016 Pro Road Tour champion Samantha Schneider took first place in the women’s race with Erica Allar and Harriet Owen coming in second and third place.
1. Samantha Schneider (ISCorp Pro Cycling)
2. Erica Allar (Rally Cycling)
3. Harriet Owen (THE METEOR // Intelligentsia) pic.twitter.com/ENQaDmnbCT
— USA CRITS Series (@USACRITS) April 29, 2018
For University of Georgia students, Athens Twilight weekend may seem like another excuse to bar hop in downtown Athens. But for the cyclists in the races, it’s so much more.
“This is an incredible event,” said Gene Engelking, a Twilight spectator from Columbus Indiana. “I don’t know if people here know about how well known this is.”
Engelking is the mechanic for the Gray Goat Mobile/Bullseye Total Media cycling team and fiance of one of the racers, Betsy Kieffer. He stood near the finish line during the Women’s ProAm Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium race to cheer on her and the team.
The Athens Twilight Criterium is the biggest nighttime criterium in the nation, said Frankie Andreu, a retired professional American cyclist and commentator for the event’s live stream. The women’s 40K race started at 7:15 p.m. and the men competed immediately afterward at 8:30 p.m. in an 80K race.
Andreu estimated around 25,000 came out to watch the races as well as enjoy the food, music and copious amounts of Terrapin Beer.
The course for all the races started at the intersection of College Avenue and Clayton Street where a couple of announcers kept the audience engaged in the racing.
“It’s got such a long tradition, such a long history,” Andreu said. “It is prime time for criterium racing.”
Awards for Athens Twilight were at 10:30 p.m. and cyclists’ scores will be updated after the final race in Speed Week, a four-race series that started on April 25 in Walterboro, South Carolina, and ends today, April 29, in Commerce, Georgia.
The top prize was $1,350 for both Twilight Criterium races, and then $950 and $700 for second and third place.
There were around 130 men and 90 women competing in total, Andreu said.
The ride to the finish line
Pro cyclist Joshua Carter said this number is higher than usual.
Carter, a 39-year-old NGCA Elite cycling team member from St. Louis, has been competing in Athens Twilight for around 10 years. This year is the highest turnout he’s noticed — and the highest amount of crashes as well.
“I didn’t want to lose all my skin today,” Carter said.
He said the cyclists on Saturday seemed to be taking a lot more risks than normal.
“This is crazy,” Carter said. “This is the biggest field I’ve ever seen here.”
Carter pulled off after about 20 laps, which cyclists do if they want to stop racing for any reason or if they can’t keep up with the pack of riders.
They pull off near the neutral pit, a place where anyone can come to fix issues they have with their bikes. This practice of pulling out of the race keeps the track clear of slower riders which is safer for all participants.
Leslie Timm, a cyclist on a Pennsylvania-based team, had to pull out of the women’s race after cycling for 11.2 miles.
“My goal was to finish, but I didn’t,” Timm said. “I messed up my positioning and did a little too much work that tired me out, so I wasn’t able to finish.”
Timm was pleased she didn’t crash and was also excited to get a call up at the beginning of the race for being a part of the USA Crits D1 QCW racing team.
During the call ups, announcers call individual racers to the front of the starting line, which gives them an advantage at the beginning of the race. Timm said this helps combat the “yo-yo effect,” which is when cyclists in the back are inevitably slowed down if the front riders slow down.
As a way to give the riders more motivation to keep their speeds as well as entertain the spectators, the announcers give away primes, which are cash awards of varying amounts given away for different reasons, such as finishing the first lap first.
During both races, the announcers gave out many $50 primes to cyclists. There were $2,250 allotted for primes for both the men’s and women’s races.
The announcers gave the Athens audience information on the cyclists to watch and updated them on the amount of laps left.
Races yet to be won
As for the cycling fans across the country, Andreu was calling out updates.
Andreu has been doing the live stream for the past three years. He said the event takes pretty much all year to plan, and it kicks off the USA Crits series, which is a 10-race cycling series in the states that garners attention from both national and international pro cyclists.
Criterium races usually take place on city streets in quick laps and are a place where spectators can watch pro cyclists up close on the narrow routes.
Cyclists compete in teams of six people, though individuals are the ones vying for first place.
Having teams help cyclists strategize while on the course. They could choose to help a teammate do a breakaway, which is when an individual cyclist is able to get away from the pack of riders and into the front. At the end of Speed Week, teams will also be recognized as a whole.