Oh, Athens, you never disappoint. For the American Criterium Cup opener, Speed Week’s Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight, presented by Michelob Ultra and Visit Athens, the race for the series win kicked off with a fast start.

Athens Twilight is a two-day event, starting with a pre-event expo and qualifiers for call-ups. Chad Andrews started qualifiers in 2010 with Computrainers, which still proves to be a great way to engage crowds by getting pros on stage to show off some pre-race power. While the tech behind the trainers has improved, fan engagement is still the same. And while the qualifiers aren’t for the entire field, it’s an excellent way to show off some of the names in American criterium racing.

Scoring on the American Criterium Cup.

Each event has three competitions: overall, sprint, and team. Riders gain points for their overall placing, and there are three intermediate sprints, one at seven laps in, midway, and seven to go. The sprint competition is stand-alone and is scored separately from overall points. Team points are calculated by adding the total of the top 3-point earners at each event.

The Women’s Race.

Fifty-two women lined up to the start, a crowded field of National Champions and Olympians. While there were attempts at early breaks, the group stayed bunched for most race until the last Sprint points sprint at seven to go. With time running out, the break attempts became more pointed. The 2023 Women’s field is very competitive this season, with two new teams from the NCL, DNA Pro Cycling, Automatic|Abus Racing, ButcherBox Cycling b/b Look, and L39ion of Los Angeles taking part, it was the final seven laps that show what we can expect throughout the series. With real estate running out, the contenders took to the front. The eventual winner, Alexis Ryan of L39ion of Los Angeles, played it perfectly, positioning herself to rocket out of turn four, holding on for the long sprint to the finish line, and finishing ahead of the field.

Women’s winner, Alexis Ryan.

Women’s ACC and Athens Twilight top 3.

  1. Alexis RYAN, L39ION of Los Angeles
  2. Andrea CYR, Miami Nights
  3. Erica ZAVETA, Denver Disruptors

Women’s ACC Sprint leaders.

  1. Erica ZAVETA, Denver Disruptors
  2. Rachel PLESSING, ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK
  3. Leah KIRCHMANN, Denver Disruptors

The Men’s Race.

The men’s field, one hundred and thirty-three strong, took to its eighty-lap race. Immediately, riders hit the gas, and within a few laps, average laps speeds started climbing, reaching just under 30 mph. As gaps began to form, riders took to the front to try and stay away, and eventually, the move came with a group of nine, then ten, when Artem Shmidt of Hagens Berman Axeon made a huge bridge to join. The move stuck and lapped the field. It came down to the line with last year’s winner, Bryan Gomez of Miami Nights, winning by a bike throw against Danny Summerhill of American Cycling Group.

Eventual winner Bryan Gomez Miami Nights

Men’s ACC and Athens Twilight top 3.

  1. Bryan GOMEZ, Miami Nights
  3. Robin CARPENTER, L39ION of Los Angeles

Men’s ACC Sprint leaders.

  2. Dusan KALABA, ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK
  3. Evan MCQUIRK, ButcherBox Cycling p/b LOOK

Men’s and Women’s full results.

What makes Athens Twilight so unique?

More than anything, it’s the fans. The course is a classic, fast four-corner crit at just one kilometer and 18 feet elevation gain per lap. It’s not the most challenging profile and not very technical, but the speed makes this race brutally hard, with a lap speed average of nearly 30 miles per hour. Add twenty thousand wild fans, and it’s easy to see why this race has won so much love over the past 43 years.

The Women’s P/1/2 field.

Speed Week’s Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight, presented by Michelob Ultra, and Visit Athens reply can be see at athenstwilight.com

The next American Criterium Cup event is the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Alabama, on May 6th.