Athens Twilight Criterium alters course after 35 years

Streetscape project forces organizers to reroute criterium circuit

For the first time in its 35-year history, the Athens Twilight Criterium will be moved to a new location but still held at the end of April on the 24 and 25 in downtown Athens, Georgia. Race organizers announced the new course details on Friday and cited an ongoing streetscape project on Clayton Street, which was a part of the old circuit, as the reason for the change.

"It is going to be hard to unwind 35 years of racing on what is considered the best criterium course in America, but the new course offers its own unique challenges," said Gene Dixon, the race's founder.

The new course will start on Washington Street and make a left on Jackson Street. It will then make a left through turn two on Hancock Avenue, and descend into a left-hand turn three onto Hull Street, and then into turn four back onto Washington Street, and the finish line will be at College Avenue.

"The new course is a little longer and will have one super high-speed corner as it descends to turn three from Hancock Avenue left on to Hull Street. Being first through this, and turn four may not be as important as the power needed to make the climb up Washington Street to the finish at College Avenue,” Dixon said.

Organizers also noted that they are waiting for the city’s approval to close the course to traffic all day Saturday, April 25, so that they can run the amateur events, which were previously held separate from the elite’s course on the Greenway. They will also host other events including a music stage, a gambler bike ride, a kids zone and criterium, a BMX stunt competition, mountain bike time trials, a fat tire criterium, with all events taking place in the new course layout.

"I think Athens Twilight is one of the most intense and tough races I do all year, and I do not think 2015 will be any different even though the course is changing," said Morgan Patton Brown, a local cyclist who will be riding for Team Colavita/Bianchi this season. 

"Turns one and two should be straight forward considering they're after a nice hill. Turns 3 and 4 will be technical and fast.”

Dixon founded the event in 1980 as the first nighttime race in the US. Athens Twilight Criterium will celebrate its 36th anniversary this year and is bringing back its title sponsor, Athens Orthopedic Clinic. All proceeds from the event will benefit Athens Area Habitat for Humanity.

Last year, the race was apart of the USA CRITS Championship Series. Tina Pic (Fearless Femme) won the elite women’s race and Daniel Holloway (Athlete Octane) won the elite men’s race.

The previous course included Washington Street but was also run along N Lumpkin Street, E Clayton Street and North Thomas Street.

Dixon said the new location has the feel of the original Twilight course, before the area became so popular and lively. "This course has a bit more of a wide open feel similar to the first Twilight,” Dixon said.

"That was before parking decks, before downtown housing, before streetscapes. Only a couple of bars and restaurants. Before a Classic Center and a hotel. Before paved roads… just kidding. Certainly the Twilight has felt the pulse of Athens in one place for a long time.”

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