Riding This Week


Chainbuster MTB Racing Series - Georgia's friendliest MTB racing. 6 & 9 Hour Endurance racing for solo or teams.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 Athens Twilight and Roswell Criteriums

Athens Twilight Criterium has grown over the years to become the biggest, baddest, craziest cycling crit in the world. Believe me I'm not exaggerating. The event draws thousands of spectators and includes a huge bike festival with vendors selling food, charities giving out swag, BMX bike show, jumpy things, Kid's Crit, a century ride (The Gambler), a 5K run, and best of all Professional Teams bring their best riders to race around downtown at speeds I dare not mention.

I don't mention the speed because I don't want to loose my nerve to continue to try and qualify for this thing. You see those of us lowly wanna be racers have to qualify at the AM Races in order to race in the big boy one down town. This has been my 3rd attempt to do so.  If you hold a USA Cycling license and want to race against 70+ other wacked out bike racers then you too can give it a shot. Here's how high you have to finish in order to qualify for the big dance.

The following places qualify based on the top finishers:
  • Cat 1/2 (35)
  • Cat 3 (25)
  • Cat 4 (10)
  • Masters 35+ (15)
  • Masters 45+ (10)
  • Juniors 15+ (5)
  • Women 3/4 (5)

Let me quickly recap my last two attempts. Keep in mind that as a CAT4 I have to Top 10.

2010 Twilight AM Qualifiers
Attempt #1 (2010)
It was raining. The race was the fastest I'd done to that point in my crit experience. On the last lap...in the last corner...I started my sprint somewhere inside the top 20. A crash happened behind me and a rider fell into my back wheel. It only caused my derailleur to skip a gear and I was able to restart my sprint. I finished in 11th. One spot out of qualifying. That year I was scared and alone. I was jacked up on caffeine gels and just knew we were all going to slide into the fences. When it was over I felt relieved just to finish. I went on home but heard stories of the night time race being a crash fest in the pouring rain. When I recounted the experience and my failure to qualify to Star Bridges he told me something I'll never forget, "Sometimes God does for you what you're too stupid to do for yourself."

 Attempt #2 (2011)
2011 Twilight AM Qualifiers
This time the weather was great and I felt confident. My warm up told me I had good legs and I started the race at the front. It was fast but I felt in control and easily kept myself inside the top 15. With 5 laps to go I move into the top 10 and with 3 laps to go I was sitting perfectly positioned in 5th. We were flying down into turn one. It was all stretched out because of the speed. When we swung wide the guy in 3rd position caught his handle bar on the fence and took us all out. I landed on someones bike and slid into the concrete gutter. My race was over. With two laps to go. It did however provide me with this photo which is one of my favorite racing shots ever.

Attempt #3 (2012)
This year I had some friends in the race. Sean Philyaw and Star Bridges started and finished without incident. I arrived an hour and a half before my start time and parked
in the gravel lot across from Jittery Joes. These days I get there early so I can warm up. I also wanted to watch Robert Loomis race CAT5. As I drove through downtown I could see cyclist's everywhere already. The temperature was perfect in the 70's. I walked over to registration and spotted Sean Philyaw pulling in. He's looking fit. I couldn't tell if he was nervous. I went back to the truck, got ready, and then headed to the starting line to watch Robert finish. I got there with 5 to go and Robert looked good close to the front. His girl friend was there taking pictures and looking nervous. As the laps counted down I started cheering for him as they went by. Robert hasn't exactly been stellar in the final laps so I was hoping to see him finish this one off. 
When they came through on the bell lap I couldn't tell how Robert was feeling. He was focused though.
You can't see the final turn from up at the finish line so when the lead car finally popped around the corner I almost fell over from leaning out to try and see if Robert was coming. I caught myself holding my hand over my mouth like a little girl. A furious sprint took place in which a guy got a great lead out from his team mate to take the win. Robert  was alone and in the wind but still managed to get 3rd. He's an ox. Pure power. If we can just keep him upright he's a sprinting star. This time he got a chance to prove it. Great job Robert!

Then it was time for my race. A field of 61 Category 4 racers trying to finish in the top 10. I got to the line with Star and Sean and we were off. The pace was high from the start. Riders would advance on the outside when we hit the back side of the course so I had to continue to advance as well. Thankfully I stayed out of trouble because I think there were some crashes near the back. Star had no intention of doing the final in the evening so he told me that if he was able he would come up the outside on the last lap and take me to the front. With around 10 laps to go my family and friends showed up to cheer for me. They would be my Wife, Lisa, my kids Molly and Ellie and the Pattillo's, Jessica, Thomas and EG.
With 3 to go I made my way to the outside and tried to stay near the front. At one to go I was sitting in the top 20 as the field was spread wide on the back straight. Star never made it up there so I was prepared to swing wide in the final two corners and then sprint like a mad man. As we entered the final corner some guys up in front crossed wheels and took themselves down and a few others...right in front of me. I slammed on my brakes but couldn't get stopped before slamming into a guy with my front wheel. In order to save my bike from harm I ducked my head and flipped over onto the guy. He was dazed and confused. I was...upset.

The entire race passed by and then Star rode up. His wife Lisa was on that corner and saw the whole thing. We rode together to the finish line where my worried wife awaited the reason I wasn't in the finishing sprint. I got my result..46th place. Yippee.

This is the race I've been trying to get to: 2012 Athens Twilight Amateur Final

So after yet another failure to launch I declared my future CAT4 crit racing intentions. They are as follows: Attack...then attack some more. If I'm off the front I won't be in a crash. Most likely. The other rule I'm making for myself is to race Master's whenever possible. Yeah, I may get my butt handed to me but at least I won't be sitting on it on the last lap. No more relying on CAT4's to hold their lines.

The beauty of Twilight is that there's more to do than just race my bike. There's a Kid's Crit. And a Kid's Parade Lap. And lots of other cool stuff for the family to enjoy. And so we did.
We like to park in the parking garage at turn three so we have a great view and the safety of the vehicles close by. The plan was to have a picnic lunch and then order take out from Little Italy in the evening. The kids were resplendent in their cycling jersey's and ready for the Kid's Crit and the festival. I was ready too let the fun begin!
The Kid's Crit takes place on the back side of the course at the top of the hill. They race in groups by age. I made a quick video.

After the Crit we enjoyed the festival. The kids favorite is the BMX show. My favorite was watching them do the rock climbing wall. My favorite vendor was the SeaSucker guy from New Jersey. That guy loved his job and loved his product. I also enjoyed talking with the owner of Snyder Cycles. His company is in Atlanta and they make custom frames. Very nice stuff.
Jessica Pattillo liked the 24 Hours of Booty tent. Not real sure why. She's lost like 300 pounds and half the booty. Maybe they take donations? I don't know.

After we wore out the festival we found ourselves a little patch of heaven on turn 4 where we could watch the carnage. The racing was fantastic! We saw some close calls and some down right failures.
It was a great day despite my failure to qualify and be involved in this. I guess I can't wait to do it again. I guess.

Sean Philyaw now brings you his story from the Roswell Crit. A story that confirms my new crit strategy. Sean did fantastic...however if he continues in this manner he'll accumulate enough points to be CAT'd up to a 3. Are you sure you want that Sean?

As experienced by Sean Philyaw
Photo's courtesy of Marc Hetzel

I arrived in Roswell at 8:15 Sunday morning and found a nice shaded parking lot behind a local business to set up my trainer for the warmup.  Went to register and saw Mike Ingmire there from Reality Bikes.  Mike is a bigger guy like me and when I saw him at registration, I said uh-oh.  As I suspected, he stayed up front, or close to it and pulled his teammates for the duration.  He's a machine and I was not looking forward to him setting the pace.
Sean Philyaw on the front in Roswell.
Did a good 25 minutes on the trainer and rolled to the holding pen for the roll out to the start / finish line.  I arrived 15 minutes before the race start and ended up with a crappy position after rolling down to the start / finish line.

Did the Masters 35+ CAT 4-5 race first at 10AM.  This was a 30 minute race.  As you would expect, all of us older guys with mortgages and kids had a nice clean crash free race.  Avg speed was 26.1 mph and avg power was 298 watts.  I planned to use this race to practice moving around the pack.  Went to the front for a couple of laps to check the view (haven't seen that view lately) and then stayed with the pack as the front group took off to run down a chance at a preem.  As is usually the case, the outside line is the best through the turns, but there are a couple of places in Roswell where the inside, or left side, is the best place to be.  Especially at the left turn in front of the fire station and up the riser on the back of the course.  You can really make up some spots on that riser.  I ended up 26th out of 50 something finishers.  The race started with a field of 75 and many were pulled by the officials.

After the first race, I rolled back to my car, had a Nutella sandwich, copious amounts of fluids and put my feet up to rest for the next race. 
Again I rolled up to the holding pen 15 minutes before the race start.......and you know the rest.  I guess you had to get there half an hour early to get good position.  I ate a quick gel while sitting there baking in the sun.  On the roll down to the start line, two guys got tangled up and went down.  Was this a preview of things to come?

Did the regular CAT 4-5 race at 11:55 AM.  This was scheduled to be a 40 minute race, but it ended up being 35 minutes.  Why?  CRASHES!  Again, we started with a field of 75 and it seemed that crashes were taking them out at the rate of 5 per lap.  First two crashes happened and I was gapped off the back.  Chased hard and caught the pack just in time to see overlapped wheels and cascading riders at the end of the long straightaway.  It was ugly!  At least 20 guys went down and there were bikes everywhere.  Picture a bunch of 20 dominoes falling all at once. 
A small 3 ft wide lane opened up on the left side and some of us were able to make it through.  The field was way ahead at this point and it seemed as though another chase was forthcoming.  Thankfully, the officials neutralized the race and we all sat at the start / finish line for 5 minutes while they cleaned up the carnage.  Riders came walking up the sidewalk with carbon bikes in two pieces, shredded kits and blood oozing from wounds that will later be displayed as trophies as the scars form.  You would have thought that seeing this would have helped to put some sense into the group.  The whistle blew again.........and off we went.

Guess what happened next? A crash you say....why yes, in turn 5, not even a full lap into the restart.  I guess there were still a few squirrels that had yet to be culled.  Now turn 5 at Roswell is the nastiest of all 5 turns on the course.  It's a hard left with an angle of maybe 75-80 degrees, so if you go in too hot, you will go bouncy-bouncy on the air bags that are secured to the barricades.  Turn
5 is where many of the spectators sit just to see the carnage.  This race did not disappoint.  I was entering turn 5 as the bikes and riders began to hit the pavement, so I had time to grab a handful of brake and get stopped.  I was lightly tapped from the rear, but I stayed upright and weaved my way through the carnage to chase on yet again.

We finally settled in and laid down a few laps without disruption. 
Ended up finishing 20th in this race.  Avg speed was 26.3 and avg power was 268 watts.  There were 32 finishers out of the 75 that began the race.  One positive to the crashes is that while I was chasing after each crash, I was able to easily catch the group by having the whole street to myself and taking the best lines through the turns.  You know, just like the Masters do during the whole race.  Steady, smooth and fast.  I plan to do some Masters 1/2/3/4 races from now on to learn from the best and to have my legs ripped off.

Until next time,

-Sean Philyaw

And so ends another great adventure in the life of your average roadies in Georgia. Stay tuned for more tales of woe from yours truly and my gang of friends.

Have a great week!

Chad Hayes

1 comment:

  1. hey chad... good write up's on the roswell race, i was in that race and it was horrible. the big wreck that caused the restart happened right in front of me, i barely missed getting taken out. either way, i was wondering if you could send me a copy of the athens cat 5 finishing video, its the only video ive found of that finish. feel free to email me at jonathan.austin2@gmail.com

    thanks and good luck racing!