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30th Athens Twilight Criterium - NE
USA, April 25, 2009
Blackgrove, Miller triumphant in Athens
By Laura Weislo in Athens, Georgia
In its 30th year, the Athens Twilight Criterium proved to be as popular with the fans and as hard-fought between the riders as ever. Under clear skies and high heat, the US road and criterium champion Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO) and New Zealander Heath Blackgrove (Hotel San Jose) stepped onto the top of one of American racing's most coveted podiums.
The evening started off with the high-off thup-thup-thup of a helicopter, not for the race coverage but as police had launched a man-hunt for a university professor who had murdered his wife and two others just blocks from the race course that afternoon. Despite the tragedy, the race went on with thousands of excited fans filling the streets of this college town.
The hunt was on from the gun in the women's race as Miller launched a surprise attack on the first lap, immediately putting the more "well-staffed" teams on the defensive.
"We only had four riders for today, and we had to be careful. Each one of our moves had to be smart. We wanted to come out with guns blazing since we were a little short-staffed," Miller explained. "We wanted to make the race as painful as possible. For a team of four to control the race really speaks to how well we work together as a team."
Her TIBCO team countered the move as soon as their star sprinter was brought back, eventually putting Lauren Tamayo up the road with Team Type 1's Jacquelyn Crowell. While the move was not ultimately successful, the Colavita team of 2004 winner Tina Pic was forced to use up valuable bullets to bring it back.
In the end, a much-reduced field came together for a bunch sprint, but once again it was TIBCO which led the way.
"We had Meredith [Miller - no relation, ed.], Lauren and then me on the front for the last lap," explained the winner. "They led me up to turn three, then I took it from the last turn."
Miller came across the line with more than a bike length to spare over two previous Athens Twlight winners, Tina Pic (Colavita) and Jen McRae (Team Type 1).
The break succeeds in men's event
The night's most popular event, the elite men's race, lacked two of the characteristics which have plagued riders and thrilled fans over the past years - massive crashes and a bunch sprint. The race still had the high rate of attrition which comes from blistering speed over the race's 80 laps, but three men were able to sneak away from the field to steal the show from the sprinters.
"I knew I had to win from a breakaway like that," explained the eventual winner, Heath Blackgrove (Team Hotel San Jose). "I knew the race ends in a sprint, and that my only chance was a breakaway. I had teammates who could come through if I got caught. We had options. To win away from home is pretty awesome."
First blood was drawn early by perennial Athens Twilight contender Kyle Wamsley (Colavita) and local hero John Murphy (OUCH Pro Cycling). The pair gained a ten second lead, but the peloton still had plenty of ammunition.
Aggressive throughout the night was 2007 winner Mark Hekman (Mountain Khakis), who helped form the night's second serious move. He joined Jonny Sundt (Kelly Benefit Strategies), Frank Trevisio (Championship Porsche), Murphy, and Alejandro Borrajo (Colavita) in a five-man move which stayed clear in some combination for the remainder of the race.
As the break yo-yo'd off the front, stretching then losing seconds, Blackgrove made his way across to the move along with Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens-Berman), a 25-year-old Seattle resident who was on the way to his career's biggest result.
As the clock wound down, cooperation in the group faltered and they started losing time.
"I was really tired," Hekman said. "And when Heath and Adrian came across, they were pulling really hard. The other guys would pull though then go to the back, and little gaps started opening up.
" I just kept going into the gaps so I didn't have to sprint around and at one point I just looked back and the rest of them were gone! I was surprised, but I think they were so busy working against each other they forgot to race the race."
A new lead group of three formed with Hekman, Hegyvary and Blackgrove, and the trio powered away from an indecisive field. By the time the Colavita and OUCH teams could gather together to launch the chase, the break had extended its lead to 20 seconds inside ten laps to go.
The chase came too late, and with two to go the field had the leaders just barely in sight.
On the final lap, Hekman made his move coming into turn three, launching a powerful attack to which Blackgrove was quick to respond. The Kiwi was then perfectly positioned to take the sprint from the final corner, and succeeded in holstering his first Athens Twilight victory. Hekman rolled in for second ahead of Hegyvary.
"That was my best shot - I was really tired becuase I'd been in the break so long, so it was the best I could have done," said Hekman.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Emory Ball
Images by Brandon Andrews Photography
Men 1 Heath Blackgrove (Team Hotel San Jose) 1.40.13 2 Mark Hekman (Mt. Khakis) 3 Adrian Hegyvary (Hagens -Berman Llp Cycling) 4 Ken Hanson (Team Type 1) 0.11 5 Aldo Ilesic (Team Type 1) 6 Kyle Wamsley (Colavita-Sutter Home Presented) 7 Andrew Pinfold (Ouch) 0.12 8 Jake Keough (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 9 Adam Myerson (Mt. Khakis) 10 Unknown 11 Yosvany Falcon (Champion Porsche Presented By R) 12 Carlos Vargas (Team Hotel San Jose) 0.13 13 John Murphy (Ouch) 14 Cesar Grajales (Rock Racing) 15 Zack Bell (Kelly Benefit Strategies) 16 Tom Soladay (Mt. Khakis) 17 Adam Bergman (Texas Roadhouse) 0.14 18 Marco Aledia (Kenda) 19 Chad Hartley (Team Geargrinder) 20 Joey Rosskopf (Jittery Joes U25 Presented By K) 0.15 21 Dirk Pohlmann (Texas Roadhouse) 22 Bennet Van Der Genugten (Kenda) 23 Issac Howe (Mt. Khakis) 24 Chad Burdzilauskas (Kenda) 25 Diego Garavito (Aerocat Cycling Team) 0.16 26 Boyd Johnson (Dlp) 27 Brian Toone (Tria Market / Ivan Leonard Chev) 28 Kevin Attkisson (Texas Roadhouse) 0.17 29 David Forkner (Globalbike) 0.18 30 David Guttenplan (Mt. Khakis) 31 Casey Magner (Locos) 32 Unknown 0.19 33 Tyler Hawes (Globalbike) 0.20 34 Ben Renkema (Kenda) 35 Stephen Housley (Myogenesis.Com P/B United Healt) 36 Unknown 0.21 37 Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit) 38 Bernard Sulzberger (Fly V Australia) 39 Sean Sullivan (Team Hotel San Jose) 0.22 40 Sean Weddell (Globalbike) 41 Josh Tucker (Clemmons Bicycle Racing) 0.23 42 Karl Menzies (Ouch) 43 Mike Stoop (Mt. Khakis) 44 Scott Jackson (Richmond Pro Cycling) 0.24 45 Steven George (Fly V Australia) 46 Lang Reynolds (Hagens Berman Llp Cycling Team) 47 Unknown 0.25 48 Unknown 0.26 49 Phil Gaimon (Jelly Belly) 50 Jeff Buckles (Richmond Pro Cycling) 51 Seth Hansley (Champion Porsche Presented By R) 52 Jonathan Cantwell (Fly V Australia) 0.27 53 Frank Travieso (Champion Porsche Presented By R) 0.28 54 Emilio Asconeguy (Aerocat Cycling Team) 0.29 55 Ty Stanfield (Kenda) 0.34 56 Chris Schmidt (The Bike Rack Of Wash Dc) 0.35 57 Jared Nieters (Haymarket/Function Drinks) 0.36 58 Jesse Anthony 0.37 59 Mack Chew (Arete Racing) 60 Patrick Harkins (Nashvillecyclist.Com P/B Bike P) 0.38 61 Thomas Brown (Jittery Joes U25 Presented By K) 62 Evan Fader (Richmond Pro Cycling) 0.39 63 Ryan Sullivan (Myogensis.Com P/B United Health) 0.40 64 David Kemp (Fly V Australia) 65 Jim Cunningham (Globalbike) 0.42 66 Eugene Boronow (Gs Mengoni) 67 Jeremy Grimm (Panther/Rgf Pb Felt Bicycles) 0.47 68 Aaron Johnson (Hagens Berman Llp) 0.51 69 Robert Gunn (Fly V Australia) 0.55 70 Nick Reistad (Jelly Belly) 71 Daniel Holt (Team Type 1) 1.10 72 Luca Damiani (Colavita-Sutter Home Presented) 1.17 73 Bobby Lea (Ouch) 1.22 Women 1 Brooke Miller (Team TIBCO) 1.15.49 2 Tina Pic (Colavita-Sutterhome) 3 Jennifer McRae (Team Type 1) 0.01 4 Joanne Kiesanowski (Team TIBCO) 5 Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) 6 Lauren Tamayo (Team TIBCO) 7 Rebecca Larson (Jittery Joe's) 0.02 8 Samantha Schneider (Team Type 1) 9 Erica Allar (Colavita-Sutterhome) 0.03 10 Carla Swart (Team Lipsmacker) 11 Anna McLoon (Altarum Women's Cycling Team) 12 Jacquelyn Crowell (Team Type 1) 13 Kristen Lasasso 0.04 14 Kirsten Davis (BMW-Bianchi) 15 Kori Seehafer (Team Type 1) 0.05 16 Jennifer Wilson (Vanderkitten Racing) 0.08 17 Jennifer Rasmusson (Cycle Life Powered By Specialized) 0.09 18 Tiffany Pezzulo (DFT p/b Treads) 0.10 19 Julie Bishop (Florida Velo) 0.11 20 Leigh Hopkins (Vanderkitten Racing) 21 Meredith Miller (Team TIBCO) 0.13 22 Kathryn Clark (Team Kenda) 0.14 23 Silke Wunderwald (Team Kenda) 24 Leslie Jennings (Cycle Life Powered By Specialized) 0.16 25 Nicole Johnson (Team Kenda) 0.18 26 Jennifer Reither (Vanderkitten Racing) 0.19 27 Elizabeth Hatch (Vanderkitten Racing) 0.25 28 Laura Bowles (Vanderkitten Racing) 0.26 29 Veronica Leal (Team Type 1) 0.32 30 Kelly Benjamin (Colavita-Sutterhome) 0.34 31 Jackie Kurth (Team Kenda) 1.10 32 Mary Pat Jones (Blue Competition Cycles) 3.38 33 Veronica Martinez (Hub Racing) 16.19
2008 Rahsaan Bahati (Rock Racing) Rebecca Larson (Aaron's) 2007 Mark Hekman (Abercrombie & Fitch) Katharine Carroll (Aaron's) 2006 Vasili Davidenko (Navigators) Jen McRae (Conex Train) 2005 Vasili Davidenko (Navigators) Shannon Hutchinson (L5 Flyers) 2004 Brice Jones (Health Net) Tina Pic (Genesis Scuba) 2003 Dan Schmatz (7UP-Maxxis) Candice Blickem (Genesis Scuba) 2002 Gord Fraser (Mercury) Ina Teutenberg (Saturn) Past winners by Mario Stiehl, www.world-of-cycling.com