Not knowing the situation with Karel and his wheel, I finally could breath (albeit, a short and not long-lived relaxing exhale) when I heard Karel's name..and his first ever call-up! (Thanks Sean C. for the video!!)
After 35 VIP riders received their call-ups, the baracades were removed from the other 115 or so riders and the tension started to mount.
Chad does an A-mazing job of announcing, I absolutely LOVE hearing him as a race announcer. As an added treat/bonus to the evening, the course had a jumbo-tron on the other side of the course, as well as another announcer to keep the action exciting for the spectators, no matter where you watched the race.
The clock started and the riders were off.....
As written by David Crowe
"If the racer is still alive at the end of the first lap, and not too far in
arrears, then he must bury his muzzle in the crack in front of him
and hold on for his honey's life. During the first 10 laps, a rider's
pain meter is quivering at the far end of the red zone. He is feeling
the scalding lactic burn in his legs caused by excessive speed. The
fastest riders in the world are uncorking the top-shelf bottles of high-
octane. These merchants of speed know that in the first 10 laps
they can cause an explosion in the field. Over half the field will get
dropped, quit the race or crash in the first five laps. The disco
sprinters want to shred the field and dump as many riders as
possible, now. This leaves fewer to contend with later.
In most criteriums, if a rider survives the first 10 laps, he knows he
will survive until the end. In most criteriums, after the initial frantic,
escape from the Titantic-like frenzied free-for all, there is an ever-
so slight decrease in speed. A small incremental drop in speed can
do wonders for a rider's ability to stuff his lungs back down his
esophagus and recover his runaway breath. But the Twilight is not
like "most" criteriums. In fact, it's most unusual. The speed does
not drop. It is relentless. It is like trying to play chess while your
heart rate is a constant 200 beats per minute. Riders carry out
silent disputations with themselves in the first five laps. See one
grimace; his inner self, the rational one, has just scored with a
cogent point phrased as a question: this is fun?
But these two-wheeled warriors, at least the ones that are left, are
also master magicians, real Svengalis. They've been outwitting
pain for years. Pain, they know, is strong like a bull, but smart like a
tractor. They trick pain; they confuse pain; they endure pain like a
visit from a mother-in-law. They force pain to a back row. And just
when they think everything is under control, the race becomes
A rider is pedaling 37 miles per hour and is struggling to hang on.
He looks up the road and sees a group of four riding away from the
front of the field. He looks down at his speedometer on his
handlebars. He's going 38 now. The four are still riding away. This
can't be possible."
As if the roads of downtown Athens haven't had enough beatings, they were in for a brutal night with 150 riders attacking every inch of this pavement.
happens. The demon of self-doubt is put to sleep. Confidence
begins its slow drip into the veins. You don't need to see a rider's
face to know: look at the way he handles his bike. A rider with
confidence does not ride with his fingers over the brake levers; he's
down in the drops, gripping the bars. He's sailing through turn one
in a perfect arc, coming out of the corner in front of the Georgia
Theatre cruising comfortably two inches from the curb, intentionally
coming within centimeters of the heads of the habitués that are
stretched out over the barricade. (No one's ever been beheaded.)
He's smiling. He's entered the Zen-zone. This is special.
If a rider makes it to the end, there is another factor to consider.
Pro teams are expected to win. This is no longer about
sportsmanship and fair play, if it ever was. Riders bump and grind
and jostle for position. Various invectives are hurled. Psychological
tactics are employed. The best sprinters in the world play a
terrifying game of chicken: hit the brakes or hit the fence, take your
pick. Back off Jack! Riders may be at The 283 Bar afterwards
downing a cold beer, but at this point in the race, this is a job. This
is a paycheck. This is thousands in prize money. This is winning.
These boys are living.
The last two or three laps of this race are spectacular. The big
teams are amping up the speed as high as it can be humanly
maintained. The reason: it's impossible for a rider to move up if
he's 20 back and already pedaling at his limit. The disco sprinter on
the team - the one expected to win - is sitting forth, fifth or sixth
wheel. Out of the last corner, the sprinters have moved up and are
now second, third or fourth wheel. These are the spots the winner
will come from. The last 200 meters is simply a stripped-bare
example of sheer speed. Racers look as if they are trying to tear
their bikes apart at the seams as they pull and jerk and twist and
pedal in a violent display of inner angst. They cross the line. It's all
over. All smiles. That was the greatest race they've ever done.
They can't wait to do it again.
Have you ever watched film of mountaineers climbing Everest?
They're miserable. Their teeth chatter like a jackhammer. Have you
heard them speak of their experiences after they return? They can't
wait to go back. They're sick, the whole lot of them!"
As I mentioned before, you are instantly "famous" once you finish the Athens twilight crit....Karel gave his autograph to a fan and I just had to snap a pic.
Our friends (and Trimarni coaching athletes) Kenny, Stefanie (and baby on the way) joined Karel and me, as well as my Trimarni nutrition athlete Katie and her hubby Carlos.
Talk about a fan club....Karel's Waycross, GA customers even made the trip to Athens, GA to watch Karel. What a super nice, fun and supportive group!! That's right - Karel has Jacksonville Trek store customers who live in GA..I suppose if you love your bike, you only bring it to the best mechanic in Florida (ok - a bit biased but he is that good).
We always joke the morning after a crit race "I didn't sleep well" says Karel "I kept making turn after turn in my sleep".
*A quick update on today's race in Beaufort (after working the morning at the Trek store) - Karel finished 37th out of 82 finishers!