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

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