Bahati on the Athens Twilight

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by Bro Deal, Apr 30, 2008.

  1. Bro Deal

    Bro Deal New Member

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  2. helmutRoole2

    helmutRoole2 New Member

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    Good stuff. This is a great race to do and watch. There's got to be 20,000 spectators jammed on a 1-k course. First year I did it I was 19-years-old and it was my first night-time crit. The 7-Eleven team was there with Davis Phinney, who I believe went on to win the race.

    Anyway, a call up in this event is crucial. I had no credentials to speak of so naturally no call up for me. I was there with a pretty good crew and one of our guys expected a call up and didn't get it. He went directly to the back while everyone else crammed themselves into the gaggle behind the called-up riders. He was several years my senior and a mentor, and I knew he was pissed about not being called up so I went back to console him, or so I thought. When I got back to him he was doing a track stand 10 meters behind the last rider, feet strapped into the pedals and clips. I came up to him.

    "Hey John, what's up?" I asked. "What are you doing back here."

    "Watch and learn," he said.

    When John said watch and learn, you knew, if you watched you would indeed learn. I cinched my toe straps down. Some drunk was telling us the race was going to start without us.

    "It's up there," he said. "The race is up there."

    When the official fired the start gun we were already in flight, me glued to John's wheel. There was an opening on the right. We jammed into it, slipped past a bunch of riders stuck behind a guy who couldn't get his foot in the pedal. We found ourselves halfway up through a field of 100 coming out of the second turn, about 400 meters into the race.

    The thing I remember most about that night were the sparks coming off rider's pedals as they went through corners. Rule of thumb for this crit is, if you make it halfway you'll make it to the finish. That didn't happen for me. I made it halfway. A break was clear, the field slowed, I thought I was Superman. I tried to cross with two others. We stayed clear for two laps and when the field caught us they were in full flight and they just kept going by. One after another like it was in slow motion. I couldn't get up enough speed to fight for a wheel. They just kept going by one after another until I was by myself in the dark.

    I pulled off near the first corner. My punk rock girlfriend and a couple of other Cat3 riders from my hometown where there drinking beers. My girl hands me a PBR. I take a huge pull and she gives me a sloppy drunken kiss and the crowd -- I shit you not -- goes wild... uproariously wild.

    You know, I think if a person is athletically inclined and driven, they can become a Cat1 in the states and have a chance to do this big races. Anything after that is icing on the cake.
     
  3. jimmypop

    jimmypop New Member

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    Is this a beer commercial, or a music video?
     
  4. thoughtforfood

    thoughtforfood New Member

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    I lived there for 5 years in the early to mid 90's, and this was maybe the 2nd or 3rd biggest party all year. Great story Helmut, thanks for the memories. I always raced in the morning races, but I loved to watch the Pro 1-2 race.(I think they used to let the 2's race?) They even let the 3's race downtown once or twice if I remember correctly. What a great party!
     
  5. helmutRoole2

    helmutRoole2 New Member

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    Athens is a combination of the two things. If you're on the course, you're part of the show. No one watching really knows who anyone is, and everyone is intoxicated to a degree. I was at Cat2 at the time, which, unless your raced for the national team, was about as far up the category food chain you could go. I knew the sloppy kiss would get a reaction from the crowd because my friend got a kiss from his old lady who raced the women's race just prior to ours and the crowd went nuts. Plus, Athens is a college town, so people are out drinking anyway. Half the people there just happen on the event.

    The formula has been applied with success in other places too. The crit at the Cascade Classic is an Athens replica, as is Gastown in BC and the Rose City Classic in Portland, but none quite achieve the same level as Athens because, I think, it's the size of the course and the fact that its a four corner crit: 1k, four corners, two blocks, primes on both sides of the course. It's as spectator friendly as a course can be. I'm surprised it hasn't been integrated into the Tour of Ga.

    The race is designed for the spectators, not the riders. Too many race promoters try to come up with fancy crit courses when all they really need is 1k of pavement and two downtown city blocks. Run it on a Friday or Saturday night and you have a built-in audience.

    I mean, what would you rather have as a competitor? A cool course and no spectators or a bland course lined with spectators? In my opinion, the racers make the race, not the course, and some of the best racing action happens at Athens.

    When I lived in north Florida, we went up every year starting when I was 17. I was a Cat2 as a 17-year-old, but I raced the junior categories, which they had at the college. For a couple years they tried to make it a Super Week-like event and had some success at it. But yes, just a really good time and I wouldn't hesitate to go watch now that I don't compete anymore.
     
  6. Crankyfeet

    Crankyfeet New Member

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    Great story helmut... [​IMG]
     
  7. fscyclist

    fscyclist New Member

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    Athens was one of my favorites mostly because of the crowds and excitement surrounding the race. It's also a cool town. Unfortunately my last time there I crashed out. I took a flyer that lasted about 3-4 laps hoping for a prime, but to no avail. Haven't been back in almost 15 years, and don't know if the course is the same, but it is FAST. That sprint is gnarly - slight down hill into the final turn with the sprint starting immediately. To win that race means you know how to position yourself, sprint, and have very large testicles.

    Another GREAT race that is coming up (if they still have it) is the Snake Alley Crit in Iowa. If you're in the midwest (or even if you aren't) you should go. There used to be 4 days of racing with some pretty good money up for grabs. Snake alley is brutal.
     
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