"Pigs flew today - yes they did - and I won the Athens Twilight Criterium", read the blog of race winner Mark Hekman, wherethehekismarkman.blogspot.com, "No joke, I can't believe it myself." The win came as no surprise to the North Carolinians who have had to race against Hekman´, since he moved to the state from Ohio two years ago, but the ever modest classical bassoonist turned bike racer handed his amateur team their biggest win of the season in Athens when he made the winning break which lapped the field.
The 29 year-old red-head survived the late race crashes that downed a large portion of the field and forced the race officials to halt the race and re-start it with 15 laps to go. When the field hurtled toward the finish line, Hekman made sure to stay up front, but he didn't even know he had won when he crossed the line. "AEG won the field sprint, and I was sure it was Artacho, who was in the break with me," Hekman explained to Cyclingnews, "so I thought I got second. But then Josh Thornton (Kodak-Sierra Nevada) told me I won."
"Then it was nice - the moto official told me to take a victory lap, so I got to put my arms up and everything." The magnitude of the win was just starting to sink in for the team, and for Hekman, who scored every amateur's dream win. "I could quit right now - take up mountain bike racing, cyclo-cross, and be satisfied," he said.
However, Hekman isn't about to hang up his skinny tires, because one of his Abercrombie & Fitch team's main goals is the SE Crit series. They went from Athens to the second race in Roswell, Georgia, and once again, the lanky rider found success. "There was a split of about 15 guys that rolled at around 9 to go - and my team made sure I was up there. I came around the last corner in fourth wheel, but kind of got boxed in and wound up 7th."
Josh Thornton, who was second in Athens, took third, and now leads the series with Hekman in a close second in a series normally dominated by the likes of Health Net and the Navigators. Hekman's team normally takes the racing more casually than their pro counterparts, and aren't afraid to enjoy the evenings following races, but this year is different, said Hekman, "Abercrombie & Fitch are really motivated to do well in the series, and our main goal of the season is the National Criterium series, so we didn't drink any beer after Athens. It's all business now!"