It’s a bit late, but as they say… “better late than never.”
Last weekend, Georgia hosted two of the biggest criteriums on the racing calendar, the Athens Twilight Criterium and the Historic Roswell Criterium. These two races are very well-attended by pro road teams, and amateurs alike, primarily due to their constant spot on the schedule year after year, but also highlighted by their inclusion in the USA Crits series and the Georgia Cycling Grand Prix series.
I was delighted to find out that Mavic was going to be in attendance, offering neutral race support services for both events. Having been a part of their volunteer mechanic program since 2005, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to do some actual “PROBIKEWRENCH-ing” again.
There’s nothing like working the wheel pit at Twilight… it’s always so amazing, year after year, regardless of the racers in attendance or any other conditions. It’s always pretty magical. For instance, back in 2005, I worked Twilight with the Cane Creek neutral support program. I got the chance to push National and Olympic Champion Marty Nothstein back into the race after a crash. He didn’t win, but played a part in the victory of his teammate Vassili Davidenko that evening.
A few days before departing for Athens, I got a call from Team Kenda p/b GearGrinder mechanic, John Columbus. Evidently, some of the team’s gear needed some work before the weekend, and it was all being kept pretty close to where I live. I made a trip out to Cumming to pick up three bikes and sixteen wheels to prep and deliver to Athens.
After gluing tubulars and tuning some wheels and bikes (and pretending my garage was PROBIKEWRENCH Service Course for a few days), myself and the gear got delivered to Athens, courtesy of my wonderful wife, Niki. I met with the Mavic guys for dinner on Friday, then we crashed at Hotel Indigo in Athens, to get ready for an interesting weekend.
Amateur racing was first on Saturday. We arrived on course a little before 8am, already getting wet from the steady rain that hung around for the remainder of the day. After all the amateur racing had been done, we moved downtown to Broad Street to prepare for the evening racing on the classic downtown Twilight course.
As you’d expect, the rain played a big part in most of the racing. The women’s race went off without a hitch, except when the race winner decided to celebrate her win, pushing two other riders into the barriers about 50 meters beyond the finish line. One girl hit the ground pretty bad, so myself and two other Mavic crew members, Collin and Pete, ran to assist. We handled the situation until the girl’s dad arrived and she was able to collect herself and get back up and on the bike.
The men’s race was a different story. Athens always has a HUGE field, and if it’s gonna get hairy, the Men’s Pro Race is where it’s going to happen. Around about Lap 5 or so, the wheel pit was covered up with riders with flat tires or getting caught behind a crash. We were switching wheels, left and right, and more riders kept coming…
The business in the pit kept coming. If it wasn’t a flat from an unseen pothole, it was more crashing. At one point, we had to jump back in the truck and prep some more wheels to change because we were running out. When a rider would pull out of the race, we’d grab the wheels he got from us and use them on someone else. Non-stop… all night long, just like the rain.
I didn’t get a lot of pictures from Twilight, primarily because we were busy working. The men’s race was over around 11:35pm, which made for a ridiculously long day. We estimated that we did around 100 or more wheel changes for that hour and a half criterium. For me, Athens did it again… lived up to my billing that there’s not another race like it.
I finally got back to the hotel around 1am. My feet were wrinkled and pruny from the wet socks and shoes I had on since 7am the previous morning… so bad that they hurt. The day wasn’t over yet. I still had to prepare for Roswell by drying out my shoes and packing my gear to leave the next morning. I also had to shave my legs. I had thoughts that I may actually race my bike in Roswell… but I’ll talk about that in my next post.