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Athens Twilight crashes spark rider-safety discussions
Daniel Holloway kicked off his season with back-to-back wins at America’s classic criteriums; Athens Twilight and Historic Roswell on Saturday and Sunday. The events opened the USA Crits Speed Week held from April 26 to May 3 throughout South Carolina and Georgia — a five-criterium series that his team Athlete Octane Cycling aims to win.
During Athens Twilight, Holloway won the field sprint of the elite men's criterium out of what was left of a peloton marred by multiple crashes. He won the race ahead of Ty Magner (Hincapie Sportswear Development) and Frank Travieso (UnitedHealthcare p/b 706 Project). At Historic Roswell, he won the sprint ahead of Andres Alzate (Champion System-Stan’s NoTubes) and Stephen Hyde (Astellas Cycling).
“Winning Athens on my first appearance was pretty unexpected,” Holloway told Cyclingnews. “I’m over the moon about it. The team has been going well since we started racing in Arizona at the start of the year and this result was a product of how well all of the guys mesh. Speed Week was a really big goal for the first half of the year for the team. Personally, I wanted to be fit and be in the mix, how it's all played out so far is just amazing. I can't thank the guys enough for their support and all the support from our sponsors getting us the best possible tools for the job.”
The series continued at the Downtown Walterboro criterium on Wednesday in South Carolina, where Holloway made it three-for-three. He won the sprint ahead of Travieso and Ricardo Escuela (Incycle-Predator Components).
The final two races are the Spartanburg Regional Classic on May 2 and the Gaffney Criterium on May 3 also in South Carolina. “Our overall goals for the team is to continue to race as team, race smart and be at the front of the race.” Holloway said. “If we continue to do those things, I believe all of the rest will fall in to place here at Speed Week.”
Holloway’s upcoming schedule includes Dana Point Grand Prix, Snake Alley Criterium, Glencoe Grand Prix, Tulsa Tough, North Star Grand Prix, Tour of America’s Dairyland and nationals. “Goal one is to continue to have fun, after that, it’s to continue to get results and be at the front of the bike race. We want to continue to win and represent our sponsors the best we can.”
Athens Twilight crash sparks rider-safety discussions
A video of back-to-back crashes midway through the elite men’s criterium at Athens Twilight surfaced and created controversy about how well officials and racers handled the situation, and what types of safety measures can be implemented in future criteriums to avoid such accidents.
The video showed an initial crash in the peloton where racer Emile Abraham (Team Predator) was laying on the ground unable to get up, and a moto official that had stopped to help at the side of the road, immediately out of the first corner. A breakaway that included Holloway rounded the corner and passed the crash site followed by the peloton, which ended up running into the parked motorcycle. The incident prompted safety discussions, including the ban on rider’s use of race radios, amongst some riders and promoters.
“The [first] crash at Athens was a bike racing accident,” Holloway said. “The second crash could have been so much worse than it was. There was no way to avoid the second crash. By the time all of the riders picked themselves up and the moto ref saw that Emile was not able to get up, it was only eight seconds before the lead car and moto came around again, and another 15 seconds before the field got there. What the video doesn't show are the six or more other crashes around the course that happened before this one. All of those were gone the next time we came around, just over a minute later. Officials tried to stop the race as fast as they could but how is one moto official supposed to stop 100 or more guys who are in full race mode? Racers don't want to stop for anything.
“We have to take responsibility as much as the officials do to judge the safety of the situation. Hats off to Frank Travieso for stepping up in the field to slow the freight train, that is a field of riders, down. Everything from flags to flashing lights have been discussed as remedies but I think the fastest way to communicate to the riders when there is a problem is radios. Even then, on a course like Athens, those may not even work with how loud the crowd is the whole time.”
Race officials eventually managed stop the race and restarted it when the course was clear, giving the original breakaway a 16-second advantage. That breakaway was reabsorbed into the field before the bunch sprint.
Abraham is recovering from injuries that include a concussion, broken nose, six stitches above his right eye, an injured shoulder and multiple abrasions.
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