Athens Twilight: The Experience.

I remember the first time I attempted the Athens Twilight races. The course was sketchy, it was full of big crashes and plenty of guys being complete dickheads. It was one of the final road races I competed in years ago and it left the taste of ass in my mouth for road racing. I never really looked back. 

I told myself that this year that I would take every opportunity I could to race my bike and I wasn't going to let the past change that. Of course loosing my father has made me realize more than ever that life is short. Too short to let anything intimidate you. It seems a bit strange but because of that I've developed this odd sense of calm when it comes to racing. It's also the best place to loose myself and just let it all go. 

The most frustrating thing for me when it comes to road racing is the fact that people seem to show up to these things and not want to race. Just sit in the pack, letting other people do all the work and go for it if they're still there. I'm sure I will never be able to do that. Thats probably why I fell in love with cyclocross, there really isn't any bullshit. Race hard. The whole time. Period. 

That being said, it really does take it's toll being the one of the ones making the race hard. Especially on a circuit like the Twilight amateur course. Two long straights, one slightly uphill make it damn impossible to get away from the bunch. There are always a bunch of crashed here. I knew this. Going into the turns first was critical, obviously but coming out of those turns and having a second or several on the rest of the pack made it damn hard not to try to push the pace and get away, ultimately it paid it's toll. I stayed in the top 10ish for just about the entire race (as most racers plan on doing) but when it came down to the dash for the line, those lazy bastards just got the best of me. Thus is road racing. Psh.

Now I was kind of down about letting lazy roadies get the best of me but at least I had delicious Taco Stand margaritas, not to mention great company, to look forward to so I was cool. I mentally checked out. Come to find out I ended up finishing 10th out of 57 preregistered (I would say maybe 70 toed the line? crashes, dnf's, etc...) and qualified for the Amateur Finals on the downtown Athens course.

It was incredibly hard not to partake in mid day festivities. Luckily several fellow Hoffs took up the slack. Thanks guys, you know who you are. I went into the "finals" with zero expectations. It was just one of those things I could never pass on. Having already done an "amateur finals" race this year, the only goal I had was be happy with my performance. I spent the race, yo yoing off the back of the main group which contained just about every category of racer (I was definitely, on paper, the lowest on the totem pole) . After about 35 minutes of some of the hardest efforts I've ever done on a bike, I gave everything I had left to sprint it out for another placing that didn't matter.

120 people potentially qualified for the "finals". When I registered it definitely looked like everyone had signed up. There were plenty of crashes and from what I've been told there were on average five people being pulled from the race per lap. Out of the 72 listed finishers, I ended up 49th. 49 out of 120 of the fastest racers, i'll take that. Not like that number really matters. I was satisfied and happy.

 After some quick high fives with the closest, I ran back to the hotel for a quick shower and change before the pro races. I parked the bike unclipped the helmet and had a moment for myself. It only takes an instant for me these days to break down in tears. I was happy, I was proud and I was sad all in the same instance. I will forever have and emotional tie with my bike and my father and its something that will always make him feel close.

It was a good weekend! Thanks to everyone who screamed at the top of their lungs, held a front row starting spot (even though I wasn't there to take it), took photos, had drunken conversations that only I will remember, drank more than their share because I couldn't, gave hugs and high fives. #HoffLife

Racing Skinny Tires

Many people know I have "unique" feelings about racing road bikes. After much debate and hesitation I have once again decided to chase glory in the road world. Being that it's been close to four years since my last road race I had a bad taste of what to expect and I knew it wasn't going to be pretty or easy or safe for that matter. 

In my new home of Charlotte, NC, the Dilworth Criterium is a staple of crit racing in the Queen City. It's early in the season, the course is physically (not technically) tough and there are a lot of eager beavers looking to show their stuff. After doing a bit of course recon, with two long straights (one slightly uphill after a sketchy ass turn, the other slightly downhill after a sketchy ass turn) I knew in the cat4 field it would be a nice 45min sketch fest. It did not disappoint. As per usual in a cirt race environment, if you're at the back you spend the majority of your effort yo-yoing after every turn trying to stay with the field and with a pretty little nasty kicker of a hill after the sketchiest turn it paid its toll and it did it quickly. I did my best to stay in the top 10-15 riders, still slowing more than I would like at the turns but not having to catch back on after everyone. It was grupo compacto for the whole 45min. I got as close as I could to the front before the final turn and the long uphill kick to the line. Of course someone hit the brakes more than anyone needed to and that bitch killed my vibe and I was forced to full on sprint to even see the winning group hit the line. I finished 14th out of 60 so I was contempt. 

Come to find out that it was the first year that the Dilworth Criterium offered an Amateur Shootout at the same downtown course the Elites race and I had actually qualified, sweet. I decided its not everyday you get this experience so with zero expectations, I decided it would just be really cool to "race" my bike in front of the same crowd and on the same course the Elites get to. The DT course was awesome! You didn't need to touch the brakes if you could even somewhat handle your bike and it was super fun. I was railing all the turns at full speed and sprinting out the apex. 

If you 5 hours to kill you can watch the Shootout and both Elite races. You will not see me. Sorry. Actually JK, at about the 1:07:50 mark you'' hear him say, "These guys are still killing it." thats my group and then you get a small glimpse of The Hoff. 

The staging was worse than at a cross race. About 25 minutes before the scheduled start the staging area was grid locked, asses and elbows.  I took my place on the last row and chit chatted with some dudes I knew I'd probably be spending the next 30 minutes riding around with. They decided to give us a neutral lap. HA!!! 30mph+ neutral lap with almost dead stops at every turn. I was off the back before the race technically begun. Score! Anywho, I "raced" as hard as I could and settled in with my brethren and to be honest, rode the funniest race I've ever ridden on a road bike. Of course more than a few guys still didn't want to pull through and do any work. Really?! this far off the back and still no one wants to do anything? I was knees out, pushing my weight down to the tires and using every inch of tarmac I could. I would have a slight gap going onto the straights but the group would catch me in the straights. I wasn't even close to the real race, in fact I watched as the peloton passed on the opposite straight and I was cool with that. Would I have liked to see if I could have hung in that group (I watched the video above and there are def dudes I've beaten in that group) but I wasn't about to let that take away from the experience of what I was doing. The crowd actually got into "the race behind the race", hearing "GO PINK DUDE" was a pretty funny thing to hear. "Raced" for 30mins, sprinted for a place that didn't even matter and it was awesome. After having several "recovery beverages" with the BikeSource boys and watching the Elite women and men I was definitely wishing I hadn't  already pre-registered for Sunday's race in Belmont, NC. The cleverly named, Belmont Criterium

Peep the sweet vid with an awesome soundtrack from last year's race. 

This course definitely played more to my strengths., meaning that as opposed to 90% of the cat4's I could actually handle driving a road bike. With the 6.5 turns I thought I could try and use this to my advantage. The Belmont field wasn't close the fields the day before, maybe 30 toeing the line. Of course I lined up behind the guys thats apparently never used road pedals before! Balls! Once again starting from behind, I found myself chasing to find the front of the race. Like I said earlier, I am still surprised by the amount of cat4s that really cant handle their bicycles. I was luck enough to avoid 3 bad crashes not 2 wheels in front of me. I'm talking dudes that clipped the fences and went over the bars or slid out and when under the fencing. When I got toward the head of the race I found that there was already 2 dudes off the front by a good margin. Surprisingly, I was feeling ok so I gave it a go and just kept motoring trying to chase em down. "No Mans Land" is not a friendly place. Its lonely, it's windy, the gradient is unrelenting. I rode there for a solid 15 minutes just seconds behind the leaders but never making contact before inevitably being chased down. Luckily I was only chased down by a couple and now becoming a threesome we were able to then chase down the leading two within a few laps. This was the five that would decide the race. Once again I knew I hand the upper hand when going into turns. Unfortunately burning most of my matches to get to the front I wasn't able to drop the remaining pair. I nailed the final turn but couldn't muster the sprint to pass the two in front before the line. 

It may seem cocky to use the term "settle" for 3rd but I honestly feel I've been always right there but never grabbing that elusive top step that I've been craving. Road racing is definitely a different beast and I've got to play the cards right. People don't want to work, can't handle their bikes and wonder why they crash and to be realistic I'm just not quite fit enough to ride away from them all. I'll be working on that...

All in all, not a bad start to the "road season". Yea, thats still weird to say. Spend some money to race the road bike, racing a course that only few get to, learn some valuable lessons along the way, win all the $ back plus a few bucks on Sunday, I'll call that a successful weekend. 

On a side note, there has never been a time when I've pinned a number on my back where I don't think about my father. Dad loved hearing about my riding and racing. Every time I spoke to him on the phone, one of the first things he would ask is, "You been riding a lot? or "How's racing going?" After ever race I always miss giving him the race report. Miss you DBM.


don't judge the grammer and or speillling...