Athens Twilight Criterium - the need for speed!

I LOVE watching bike racing, especially criterium racing.
 The tactics, endorphin rush, speed....there is so much going on with every loop that you can't help but stay glued to the race to watch everything unfold. To really understand crit racing, you have to know the riders, the teams and well, really be in the race. 
Thank goodness I married a cyclist!

For 6 years, I would spend many weekends throughout the year at bike races because my cat 3 boyfriend, turned cat 1 fiance, turned cat 1 husband Karel (now turned triathlete) has been racing bikes for most of his life. I learned so much about cycling, bike racing/training and how much Karel loves to suffer. 

Karel's last season of bike racing finished with the NRC Speedweek in 2012 and a few months later, Karel started his first triathlon season with a sprint, olympic and then half ironman triathlon. In 2013 Karel raced his first Ironman (IM Placid) and in 2014, Karel qualified for the 2015 Ironman World Championship. 

Karel still has the need for speed on two wheels but now he is much more aero, has a bottle cage on the back of his bike, paces his own race, is not allowed to draft in races and rides a tri bike. 

On Saturday, Karel and I drove 1:45 to Athens to watch Twilight. Being so close now that we live in Greenville, we could not pass this up.

For several years, Karel went to Athens, GA to race the Athens Twilight Criterium. He first raced as an amateur and then once he was eligible to race with the pros in an NRC race pro, he stepped up his game to race with the professionals. Karel was still working up to 45-50 hours a week as the GM of the Trek Store so it was not easy to balance everything and still be in top shape to race with cyclists who race for a job. But nonetheless, Karel made it all work. It took Karel a few years to gain the fitness, tactics and confidence to race this one of a kind race but the message is true and should never be forgotten...... never ever give up even if you fail the first time!

2009 Athens Twilight recap  - pro race, did not finish
2010 Athens Twilight recap  - pro race, did not finish
2011 Athens Twilight recap - finished!
2012 Athens Twilight recap - finished!

If you are in or around the area next year, we highly recommend that you watch this race. If your town has a professional men/women crit race, check it out as you will not be disappointed. You will not believe the endorphin rush you get as a spectator in Athens, as you watch on the sidelines with 30,000 spectators, students (most of which are drunk) and cycling fans.  

This year we had an athlete, Magda (who just upgraded to Cat 1,2), participating in her first Athens Pro race alongside Trimarni athlete Jennie participating in the Cat 3 race earlier in the day.
Just like Karel experienced when he first raced Athens, the race is unlike anything you will ever experience as a cyclist - in racing or training. The race is on a whole other level and the intensity of racing is incredible...incredibly painful.

But for Magda to progress with her fitness, Karel wanted her to participate in Athens in order to gain experience. Cycling is unlike many other sports where you can gain so much from a race regardless if you do or do not finish the race. 

After winning many races as a Cat 3, Karel experienced his first and then several DNF's in cycling races when he upgraded to Cat 1/2. But he was determined to finish a race and then be able to race at a higher level in the NRC Speed Week. He did all of this because he wanted to reach his full potential and that meant never ever giving up.

Karel not only understands cycling training but also the cycling tactics so it was really fun to spectate Athens together, on the sidelines, for the very first time.
(I am a pro Athens spectator :) 

Here are a few pics of Karel racing in the Athens Twilight Crit. 

Athens Twilight Criterium fun facts

The women pro race starts at 6:15 and last ~1 hour. This follows the 1-mile running race (the male winner race 4:05 yesterday!!). The male pro crit starts around 8:15pm and the hilly course is around 1K in downtown Athens, with four corners for each lap. The male pro race completes 80 laps which is around 80K of racing in less than two hours. Typically, over 150 riders line up to the start line and every lap, the race field gets smaller and smaller. There are often crashes, mechanicals and a lot of crushed souls but the energy is so amazing that even if a rider doesn't finish, he is still handed a beer or given a high five and is treated like he won the race.

For videos of last nights race, check out the Trimarni Facebook page.