Karl Menzies and Theresa Cliff-Ryan win at Athens Twilight Criterium

In torrential rains, UnitedHealthcare's Karl Menzies and Colavita's Theresa Cliff-Ryan stay clear of the problems in Georgia.

By Joe Silva

Menzies leads
Menzies leads

Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare-Maxxis) got the better of a group of sopping wet group of breakaway riders to win the 30th edition of the Athens Terrapin Twilight. The Tasmanian veteran powered away from the six-man move on the final lap of the event to take a decisive victory after nearly 90 minutes of racing under often torrential conditions.

In the women’s event, Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Colavita/Baci) outkicked Sam Schneider (Tibco) and Erica Allar (Team Vera Bradley Foundation) in the finishing sprint.

Menzies’ gamble

“I thought it would be easier for me to win out of a break rather than a big bunch kick. That was my gamble and it paid off.”

Menzies had spent the majority of the race in the company of Hilton Clarke (Bahati Foundation), Ken Hanson (Team Type 1), Luca Damiani (Kenda Pro Cycling p/b GEARGRINDER), Alessandro Bazzana (Fly V Australia), and local Athens rider Ty Magner (Loco’s Grill & Pub). After several attempts by a number of squads to achieve some separation from the field, it was an initial effort by Damiani that instigated the winning break midway through the race. Once joined by the other five riders, the group came within 17 seconds of lapping the field. But the cooperation within the breakaway did not extend to that strategy.

“There’s Hilton Clarke and Ken Hanson, arguably the fastest guys in the U.S. at the moment, so to lap the field with those guys wouldn’t have been smart for myself or a few others, so the effort stopped short there.”

Cliff-Ryan stays clear of trouble

“In the rain, you have to stay in the front.” Cliff-Ryan said while recently retired Twilight veteran and Colavita directeur Tina Pic stood by beaming. “And I tried to stay at least top-seven the whole time. It was a very hard and fast race.”

Women's podium
Women's podium

The women’s starting field, consisting of veteran’s like Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) and previous winners Jen McRae and Rebecca Larson, rolled to the line as the circling clouds prepared to dump another dose of wet on the streets of Athens. Within 12 laps of racing the field had been slashed to about 30 participants all told, as riders opted not to endure the hazardous conditions and high speeds. Colavita-Baci repeatedly led the diminishing group around the circuit, receiving steady challenges from Team Tibco’s Sam Schneider and the heavy-hitting representatives of Team Vera Bradley Foundation.

Unlike the men’s race later on in the evening, however, there would be no successful breakaway attempts and as the rain fell steadily it was clear that a field sprint was in the making. On the penultimate lap it appeared that Laura Van Gilder and a number of other women crashed out of turn four, enabling Theresa Cliff-Ryan, to put her head down and motor down the right side of the road to a strong win.

“Rushlee (Mae Buchanan) was killing it for me the first 15 to 20 laps.” Cliff-Ryan said afterward. Then Shontell did really well in the second half in terms of taking care of me.”

“It’s my first time here in Athens,” Cliff-Ryan said after everyone had been checked out for injuries. “I can’t believe these crazy people out here in the rain all night and still having a good time.”


Cliff-Ryan’s victory salute was marred by a collision that took place behind her sending several riders crashing to the ground. Schneider initially appeared to suffer the worst of the mishap as she lay fairly motionless on the ground several dozen yards past the start/finish line. Emergency teams responded to her needs immediately, however, and she was able to take her place on the podium without any apparent injuries.

Drought ender

Having suffered through some of the worst of the weather already, the crowds gave no sign of abating as 151 of the best men’s criterium riders rolled up to start/finish for the main event.

Initially the rain slowed somewhat, giving false hope to the field that they might enjoy a dryer run. Jamis/Sutter Home’s local favorite Frank Travieso quickly got the support of teammate Ivan Dominguez, who began a steady campaign to force a separation despite the tenacity of national Australian criterium champ Aaron Kemps and his dominant Fly V Australia squad.

With riders from the Kenda-GEARGRINDER continually going into the neutral service pit during the first 20 laps of racing, other riders such as AeroCat’s Andy Crater wrestled his way to the front of the field. The inevitable crashes did come, however, and with not much more than 55 out 80 laps of racing left, the attrition from the field had taken the peloton down to only 90 riders. Two laps later, that number dropped to 80.

It was then Thomas Brown’s (Mountain Khakis fueled by Jittery Joes) turn to have a go off the front of the group, but riders like Team Type 1’s Mike Creed were unwilling to let that happen. After Brown was reeled in, Luca Damiani made the explosive effort that would eventually decide the outcome of the race.

Bazzana splashes
Bazzana splashes

Damiani left the competition behind him, but was quickly joined by a strong collection of four other riders to include Creed’s teammate Ken Hanson, Alessando Bazzana (Fly V Australia), Karl Menzies, and Hilton Clarke (Bahati Foundation). Not to be left out of the action, Loco’s rider Ty Magner gave his all to bridge up to the group, adding some local representation to the break. And then the skies opened up once again.

That turn of nature seemed to suck the animus out of the chasing field, and apart from Will Hoffarth’s (Mountain Khakis) valiant attempt to get his squad in the mix, the race was locked down from that point forward. Hoffarth couldn’t bridge the 35 seconds gap to the leaders, while the field hung back another 20 seconds down the road.

When it became clear that Hoffarth’s ploy would not succeed, and the threat of the field being lapped became all too real, his own teammates renewed their chase in earnest. Previous winner Mark Hekman manned the front of the group for much of the remaining 27 laps, although Travieso also refused to surrender or allow the break to re-enter their ranks from behind. This and the lack of cooperation amongst the leaders eventually squelched any chance of that happening, and it became clear that the 2010 Twilight champion would emerge from this group.

“I didn’t want to lap the field.” Magner said later. “So I’m glad we eased up a bit. In the last lap though, I was cramping up…so I was done.”

UHC at front
UHC at front

With just one lap remaining, Menzies took matters in his own hands as the group rolled through start/finish for the last time. His gap was significant, but as added insurance, Menzies pushed the pace again on the hill that rules the backside of the course. It was a smart move considering the finishing firepower he had been rolling with for nearly half the race.

“Karl timed his attack perfectly.” Hanson said after the race. “I was just pulling though on the front with one to go. I didn’t see anyone following him at first, so we all kind of hesitated and that was pretty much it.”

Menzies, soaked to the skin and shivering as he waited to take his place atop the podium, said he basically played the best card he had.”

“I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint. Coming out of those last corners, I knew that some of those guys had bigger balls than me. I hit across the back, but Bazzana still came around me on the second to last corner. I was just able to come over the top of him on the final straight thank goodness.”

The Terrapin Twilight kicks off, not only the national USA CRITS Series, but the USA CRITS Speedweek series as well – where most of the same riders will compete against one another at criteriums in South and North Carolina, and Georgia through the 2nd of May.

Top Ten:

  • 1. Karl Menzies Unitedhealthcare Professional
  • 2. Alessandro Bazzana Fly V Australia at 0.1
  • 3. Hilton Clarke Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling at 1.9
  • 4. Kenneth Hanson Team Type 1 at 1.9
  • 5. Ty Magner Locos Grill & Pub at 4.3
  • 6. Luca Damiani Kenda Pro Cycling Presented By at 4.5
  • 7. Alexey Schmidt Team Type 1 at 39.2
  • 8. Jacob Keough Unitedhealthcare Presented By at 39.5
  • 9. Eric Barlevav Unitedhealthcare Presented By at 39.6
  • 10. Daniel Holt Team Type 1 at 39.6
  • Women

    • 1. Theresa Cliff-Ryan Colavita/baci Pro Cycling
    • 2. Samantha Schneider Team Tibco at 0.4
    • 3. Erica Allar Team Vera Bradley Foundation at 0.4
    • 4. Christina Smith Veloforma at 0.4
    • 5. Lauren Tamayo Peanut Butter & Co Twenty 12 at 0.4
    • 6. Tiffany Pezzulo at 0.7
    • 7. Jennifer Reither Vanderkitten Racing at 1.2
    • 8. Kacey Manderfield Cycle Loft at 1.4
    • 9. Rachel Warner Bmw-Bianchi at 2.8
    • 10. Elizabeth Morse Hill Team Fuji at 2.9
    • Full results