"The Athens Twilight Criterium is, by consensus, the fastest one-
hour of bicycle racing on this planet. The speed is insane. The
maniacal speed is a direct result of the course - it's a one-kilometer
rectangle that riders can whip around without braking, even through
the corners. If a rider even feathers the brakes, he's (she's) losing
The Twilight is an opportunity for a rider to slap his chain onto the
big ring, open the throttle and flat-out haul arse. The insane speed
is also a direct result of the racers.
These are the adrenaline junkies, the ones with the need for speed,
the fastest guys and gals in the world over short distances. These
lunatics can lean their bikes, and their bodies, around this one-
kilometer rectangle at precarious angles and ludicrous speeds that
defy Sir Isaac's general principles, and maybe one or two of Moses'
ten tenets. Going this fast must be a sin. But if you think this race is
all fun and games, think again."
-Author: David Crowe (article from Athens Magazine regarding the "old" 60K, 1 hour Athens Twilight - passed on to us by our friend James Sweeney)
As a four-year spectator of the Athens Twilight crit, it's hard for words to describe this race.....
So, I'll let a video give you a visual from the action on Saturday evening: Friday:
After our 6 hour drive on Friday, we checked in to our nice hotel (Comfort Inn) and quickly unpacked everything from the car. Campy and I got situated in the room while Karel warmed up on the trainer for the compu trainer grid qualifier. Although there's no easy way to ride 6 loops of the Athens Twilight course on a computrainer (exactly simulates the Athens course includes climbs and descends), Karel purposely did not waste his energy in his computrainer heat. Still finishing with a flush of lactic acid in his legs, he gave a nice effort - just enough to wake up the legs for the real lactic-acid burn on Saturday evening.
After Karel got cleaned up at the hotel, we headed back 1 mile down the road to downtown Athens for dinner - at our favorite Italian restaurant (with outdoor seating for Campy) at De Palma's. Pizza for me and pasta for Karel.
oiled, gliding philosophically on their bikes through the parking lot.
They're wearing a tan fit for a bejeweled and bedaubed country
club wife with a heavily insured husband.
They look cool; they look calm - like an unprepared, but veteran
trial attorney. But look closely: inside they're falling to pieces;
they're coming undone. If you took their shirts off, you'd see: their
brittle torsos are as white as cotton. The tan's a façade. They may
even be smiling now, but as Conway and Loretta would say, "It's
only make believe."
The Twilight averages over 30 miles-per-hour for one solid hour.
This is no joking matter. Does a condemned man rejoice in the
moments before placing his back to the wall and his chest towards
the muzzles of a dozen pointing rifles? It's absurd to think so.
These aren't nihilists. These are disco sprinters (vainglorious fools)
who think getting dropped in this race, in front of everyone, is a fate
worse than death.
These moments of dread and despair before the race feel like a
hundred little rats chewing on the inside of your stomach. In these
worrisome moments, many riders realize that they, like Henry
When a racer is standing at the starting line, he does his best
impression of a relaxed rider. But relaxing when thousands are
staring laser-guided missiles through you ain't easy. And, it's too
noisy to concentrate - this Rabelaisian crowd is cackling like a
henhouse full of lusty roosters. The pretend-unperturbed rider's
heart is actually beating against his chest like a sledgehammer
pounding on a thin tin roof.
a field full of insaniatics, waiting for the gate to fall so they can
escape from the asylum. The riders on the front row don't dare look
back; they don't want the riders behind to see the terror raging in
their eyes. Their common consideration? They might be trampled
to death in the very near future.
When the gun finally fires to start the race, a rider sprints to the first
corner as if his life depends on it. It might. It's the maddest dash of
the entire race - the dash to the first turn. If a rider makes it to the
turn first, or near the front, he can hit the throttle and floor it out of
the corner and accelerate down the road with no obstructions.
Clear sailing. If he gets to that first corner too late, its like a bucket
of sand poured into a small funnel; it just takes a little time to get all
of it through. The point: in the Twilight, if a racer comes out of the
first turn too far back, his race is over and it's only 10 seconds old.
Finis. Finito. The End. Good Night, Irene!"