NewsNews Features

The Twilight Criterium Returns

We all know Athens is a bike-friendly town, but not everyone knows that the city plays host to one of the premier cycling events in the country.

The Twilight Criterium Saturday, Apr. 26 will bring an estimated 25,000 people to downtown Athens. Not all of them are bike racing fans—it’s a fun weekend with something for everybody—but watch it once, and you might get hooked. “It’s new for everybody that’s new, and that’s a lot of people,” founder Gene Dixon says.

In particular, Dixon is pushing Twilight’s Friday events this year. They include an expo and sports zone with a climbing wall, a music festival (see p. X) and qualifying that will determine the starting orders for the Saturday night races.

“The Friday night stuff is really fun,” Dixon says. “A lot of people don’t know the Friday night stuff happens. It’s a chance to meet the riders, instead of just seeing a blur go by.”

For the uninitiated: Criterium racing ain’t the Tour de France. Cyclists do 80 one-kilometer laps around downtown pedaling nearly full-tilt, working in teams to spring their fastest racers free from the pack (in what’s called a “breakaway”) for a sprint to the finish line. Wrecks are common as racers who are mere inches apart pedal at 30 miles per hour around corners, which are the best places to watch the action. 

The dominant United Healthcare team isn’t participating this year, so Dixon says about 10 teams have a chance to win. In particular, he urges spectators to keep an eye on the hometown team, the 706 Project, founded by Athens resident Eric Murphy. “The team in Athens, the 706 Project, those guys have a real chance this year,” Dixon says.

The 706 Project’s new star is Frank Travieso, a Cuban immigrant who settled in Athens 10 years ago and finished third last year, when he raced for Team SmartStop-Mountain Khakis. It also features up-and-comer David Cueli of Miami. “Kid’s like 20,” Dixon says. “He’s got a chance to be a great racer.”

But there’s more to Twilight than the criterium. The weekend also features a 5k run, a mountain bike race, kids’ activities, food trucks, beer tents (see p. X) and a BMX contest. The full schedule is below.

Friday, Apr. 25

Grid qualifiers: 10 a.m.–6:15 p.m., 200 block of College Avenue

Twilight Expo and Sports Zone: 6–11 p.m., 100 block of College

Twilight Americana Music Festival: 7–11 p.m., 300 block of College

Twilight registration: 7–9 p.m., College Avenue parking deck

SPARC Computrainer Gym Challenge: 8:30 p.m., 200 block of College

Grid Finals: 9 p.m., 200 block of College

Saturday, Apr. 26

Twilight registration: 7 a.m.–noon and 4–7 p.m., College Avenue parking deck

AOC 5k Run: 8:30–9:30 a.m., Washington Street at College

Twilight Twiathlon: 8:30 a.m.–3 p.m., Washington at College

Amateur cycling races: 8 a.m.–3 p.m., Willow Street at Hickory Street

Mountain Bike Time Trials: 9 a.m.–1 p.m., East Athens Community Park

Specialty Paint & Body Gambler Ride: 10 a.m.–3 p.m., Washington at College

Twilight Kids Zone: 10 a.m.–4 p.m., 300 block of College

Twilight BMX Jam: 10 a.m.–5 p.m., 300 block of College

Twilight Big Wheel Race: 11 a.m., Washington at College

Twilight Kids Criterium: 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., Washington at College

Amateur finals: 6–6:45 p.m., Clayton at College

Mountain Bike Criterium: 6:45–7:15 p.m., Clayton at College

Kids Parade Lap: 7:15–7:25 p.m., Washington at Thomas Street

AKO Parade of Vehicles: 7:25–7:35 p.m., Washington at Thomas

Twilight $1,000 Mile: 7:35–7:45 p.m., Washington at Thomas

Women’s Twilight Criterium: 7:45–8:45 p.m., Clayton at College

Men’s Twilight Criterium: 9–10:30 p.m., Clayton at College