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By JoE Silva
Heath Blackgrove took a surprise victory at the 30th running of the Athens Twilight Criterium Saturday in downtown Athens, Georgia.
The Team Hotel San Jose rider was one of three survivors from a large breakaway late in the 80km race that refused to cooperate long enough to secure its survival to the finish.
“It’s the biggest crit in America, and I’ve heard a lot of stories about it. So to win the first time doing it, with a crowd like this, is pretty special,” he said.
In the women’s race, meanwhile, Brooke Miller took the field sprint in the women’s race thanks to a solid commitment from her strong Team Tibco squad.
With ideal weather conditions and the support of another huge turnout from local spectators, riders in the men’s race wasted no time in getting things started. Right out of the gate, Twilight veteran and 2007 winner Mark Hekman (Team Mountain Khakis) went to the front of the field and began to soak up the initial prime money. His short-lived effort, however, was followed by Colavita-Sutter Home’s Kyle Wamsley and local Athenian John Murphy (OUCH). Working together the two got a 10-second separation gap on the field.
Slovenian Aldo Ino Ilesic (Team Type 1) made the first effort to bring the two getaway companions back as the field quickly began to go single file. Similar moves followed by Johny Sundt (Kelly Benefits) and Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia). Wamsley and Murphy were clocking in their 1km laps at 1:14, and their gap began to stretch out slowly. Thirty laps into the race Hekman rallied once again to make a big effort to get across to the two riders, but it was Cantwell’s teammate Bernie Sulzberger who made it happen in the end. With 44 laps to go the group was once again all together.
Seventeen laps later, however, a strong break composed of Sundt, Frank Travieso (Championship Porsche), Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita), Hekman, and John Murphy took a 20-second gap. Blackgrove and relative unknown Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens-Berman) joined them.
“With 22 laps to go there was a field prime, and I came through that.” said Hegyvary afterwards. “They weren’t rotating too well, so after five laps I attacked.”
Hegyvary wasn’t alone in sensing the faltering break. Hekman also decided enough was enough and went with Hegyvary. All that was left was for Blackgrove to make a move out of the panicked field to set up the finale.
“We knew the break was coming back.” Blackgrove said of his effort. “Someone jumped and I went. I didn’t think it would be so easy, but it was and then the three of us slipped away.”
As the final laps wound down the trio of Hegyvary, Blackgrove and Hekman put 30 seconds between themselves and the pack. With one lap to go, it was something of a crapshoot as to who would win the sprint. Hekman took the lead going into the third corner and took a clean line into the final turn, but the long stretch to the finish was his undoing. Blackgrove waited in third wheel and timed his final sprint just right.
“I was pretty happy there,” he said. “Hekman started his sprint a little too early, I think. It’s a long way to go down that finishing straight, so once I got past him I knew I had it.”
The women’s race got under way earlier just as the sun was setting, and Miller — the U.S. national road and criterium champion — wasted no time in charging off the front of the field. After two laps gone, the race was strung out in a single file as both and Colavita-Sutter Home furiously began to chase Miller down.
Miller’s teammate Lauren Tamayo countered with Jacquelyn Crowell (Team Type 1) and the pair soon had an eight-second gap. As the laps counted down Vanderkitten sent Liz Hatch and Laura Bowles on the attack to catch Crowell and Tamayo. Colavita’s Erica Allar was also sent out of the pack to chase the duo down. At the midway point Tamayo and Crowell were caught, and then several other favorites, including Rebecca Larson (Jittery Joe’s), attempted to launch.
With 10 laps to go Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom), and Tibco teammates Kori Seehafer and Meredith Miller tried to separate themselves, but that effort also proved to be in vain, and the group settled down to prepare for the inevitable field sprint. Tibco, however, was not about to let all its work go to waste, and as things strung out over the final time up and over the backstretch climb, the four-woman squad put together a textbook train to deliver Miller to the line several bike lengths ahead of Tina Pic (Colavita-Sutter Home) and 2006 winner Jen McRae (Team Type 1).
“I got let off the leash today because we were short-staffed,” said Miller. “We wanted to come out with guns blazing with the hill on the backside and the big crowd and just the put the hurt down on everybody and make it as painful a race as possible. I love my team, and they are so strong. To have four riders control a race like this really speaks to how well the team works together.
Nelson Vails, who participated in the event in the early 1980s before going on to take a silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, fondly remembered riding the Twilight while visiting this year’s event.
“In 1983 I was winning $500 to $600 in primes in the first five laps of this race and then dropping out because I was really a track guy,” he said. “Back then the crowd was still five people deep. It hasn’t changed. The city should be really proud. They’d miss this event if it (went away).”
The next event in the USA CRITS Speedweek series is Sunday’s Historic Roswell Criterium just down the road in Roswell, Georgia.
1. Heath Blackgrove, Team Hotel San Jose, 1:40:12
2. Mark Hekman, Mt. Khakis, 1:40:13
3. Adrian Hegyvary, Hagens-Berman LLP Cycling, 1:40:13
4. Ken Hanson, Team Type 1, 1:40:23
5. Aldo Ilesic, Team Type 1, 1:40:24
6. Kyle Wamsley, Colavita-Sutter Home, 1:40:24
7. Andrew Pinfold, OUCH-Maxxis, 1:40:24
8. Jake Keough, Kelly Benefit Strategies, 1:40:24
9. Adam Myerson, Mt. Khakis, 1:40:25
10. Unknown rider, 1:40:25
11. Yosvany Falcon, Champion Porsche, 1:40:25
12. Carlos Vargas, Team Hotel San Jose, 1:40:25
13. John Murphy, OUCH-Maxxis, 1:40:25
14. Cesar Grajales, Rock Racing, 1:40:25
15. Zack Bell, Kelly Benefit Strategies, 1:40:26
16. Tom Soladay, Mt. Khakis, 1:40:26
17. Adam Bergman, Texas Roadhouse, 1:40:26
18. Marco Aledia, Kenda, 1:40:26
19. Chad Hartley, Team Geargrinder, 1:40:27
20. Joey Rosskopf, Jittery Joes U25, 1:40:27
21. Dirk Pohlmann, Texas Roadhouse, 1:40:27
22. Bennet Van Der Genugten, Kenda, 1:40:27
23. Issac Howe, Mt. Khakis, 1:40:28
24. Chad Burdzilauskas, Kenda, 1:40:28
25. Diego Garavito, Aerocat Cycling Team, 1:40:28
26. Boyd Johnson, DLP, 1:40:29
27. Brian Toone, Tria Market-Ivan Leonard Chev, 1:40:29
28. Kevin Attkisson, Texas Roadhouse, 1:40:29
29. David Forkner, Globalbike, 1:40:30
30. David Guttenplan, Mt. Khakis, 1:40:30
31. Casey Magner, Locos, 1:40:31
32. Unknown rider, 1:40:31
33. Tyler Hawes, Globalbike, 1:40:32
34. Ben Renkema, Kenda, 1:40:33
35. Stephen Housley, Myogenesis.com, 1:40:33
36. Unknown rider, 1:40:33
37. Ryan Anderson, Kelly Benefit, 1:40:34
38. Bernard Sulzberger, Fly V Australia, 1:40:34
39. Sean Sullivan, Team Hotel San Jose, 1:40:34
40. Sean Weddell, Globalbike, 1:40:35
41. Josh Tucker, Clemmons Bicycle Racing, 1:40:35
42. Karl Menzies, OUCH-Maxxis, 1:40:35
43. Mike Stoop, Mt. Khakis, 1:40:36
44. Scott Jackson, Richmond Pro Cycling, 1:40:36
45. Steven George, Fly V Australia, 1:40:36
46. Lang Reynolds, Hagens Berman LLP Cycling Team, 1:40:37
47. Unknown rider, 1:40:38
48. Unknown rider, 1:40:38
49. Phil Gaimon, Jelly Belly, 1:40:38
50. Jeff Buckles, Richmond Pro Cycling, 1:40:38
51. Seth Hansley, Champion Porsche, 1:40:39
52. Jonathan Cantwell, Fly V Australia, 1:40:39
53. Frank Travieso, Champion Porsche, 1:40:41
54. Emilio Asconeguy, Aerocat Cycling Team, 1:40:42
55. Ty Stanfield, Kenda, 1:40:46
56. Chris Schmidt, The Bike Rack Of Wash DC, 1:40:48
57. Jared Nieters, Haymarket/function Drinks, 1:40:49
58. Jesse Anthony, 1:40:50
59. Mack Chew, Arete Racing, 1:40:50
60. Patrick Harkins, Nashvillecyclist.com P/b Bike P, 1:40:51
61. Thomas Brown, Jittery Joes U25, 1:40:51
62. Evan Fader, Richmond Pro Cycling, 1:40:52
63. Ryan Sullivan, Myogensis.comh, 1:40:53
64. David Kemp, Fly V Australia, 1:40:53
65. Jim Cunningham, Globalbike, 1:40:54
66. Eugene Boronow, Gs Mengoni, 1:40:55
67. Jeremy Grimm, Panther-RGF-Felt Bicycles, 1:40:59
68. Aaron Johnson, Hagens Berman LLP, 1:41:03
69. Robert Gunn, Fly V Australia, 1:41:07
70. Nick Reistad, Jelly Belly, 1:41:07
71. Daniel Holt, Team Type 1, 1:41:22
72. Luca Damiani, Colavita-Sutter Home, 1:41:29
73. Bobby Lea, OUCH-Maxxis, 1:41:35
1. Brooke Miller, Team Tibco, 1:15:49.0
2. Tina Pic, Colavita-Sutter Home, 1:15:49.4
3. Jennifer Mcrae, Team Type 1, 1:15:49.5
4. Joanne Kiesanowski, Team Tibco, 1:15:49.9
5. Laura Van Gilder, Mellow Mushroom, 1:15:50.0
6. Lauren Tamayo, Team Tibco, 1:15:50.4
7. Rebecca Larson, Jittery Joe’s, 1:15:51.4
8. Samantha Schneider, Team Type 1, 1:15:51.4
9. Erica Allar, Colavita-Sutter Home, 1:15:51.5
10. Carla Swart, Team Lipsmacker, 1:15:52.1
11. Anna Mcloon, Altarum Women’s Cycling Team, 1:15:52.3
12. Jacquelyn Crowell, Team Type 1, 1:15:52.4
13. Kristen Lasasso, 1:15:52.8
14. Kirsten Davis, Sorella Cycling-BVM Engine, 1:15:53.1
15. Kori Seehafer, Team Type 1, 1:15:53.6
16. Jennifer Wilson, Vanderkitten Racing, 1:15:56.8
17. Jennifer Rasmusson, Cyclelife-Specialized, 1:15:57.8
18. Tiffany Pezzulo, DFT-Treads, 1:15:59.5
19. Julie Bishop, Florida Velo, 1:15:59.7
20. Leigh Hopkins, Vanderkitten Racing, 1:16:00.4
21. Meredith Miller, Team Tibco, 1:16:01.7
22. Kathryn Clark, Team Kenda, 1:16:02.6
23. Silke Wunderwald, Team Kenda, 1:16:02.9
24. Leslie Jennings, Cyclelife-Specialized, 1:16:04.9
25. Nicole Johnson, Team Kenda, 1:16:07.3
26. Jennifer Reither, Vanderkitten Racing, 1:16:07.8
27. Elizabeth Hatch, Vanderkitten Racing, 1:16:14.4
28. Laura Bowles, Vanderkitten Racing, 1:16:14.5
29. Veronica Leal, Team Type 1, 1:16:20.7
30. Kelly Benjamin, Colavita-Sutter Home, 1:16:22.7
31. Jackie Kurth, Team Kenda, 1:16:59.2
32. Mary Pat Jones, Blue Competition Cycles, 1:19:26.8
33. Veronica Martinez, Hub Racing, 1:32:08.5