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Spartanburg and Athens return to anchor Speed Week criterium series

Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles) wins the 2021 Athens Twilight Criterium
Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles) wins the 2021 Athens Twilight Criterium (Image credit: Kit Karzen & Laura Fletcher)

Speed Week returns for seven criterium races over the next 10 days across the southern US, combining for $80,000 in total prize money for individual races, divided equally for pro men and pro women. There is also a $15,000 bonus purse to be shared by overall Speed Week winners, awarded to the top five men and top five women as well as top five men’s and women’s teams. 

The payouts are on par with the national series that began at Sunny King Criterium, the American Criterium Cup, but in a more condenses calendar and geographic region. Organisers describe the races as ‘a sweet southern spin on the traditional tailgate’, as spectators who usually fill stadiums for college football in the fall are expected to turn out in full force in these smaller southern towns for the closed-circuit races.

Live streaming will be available from the series web site and free of charge, beginning with the opener in Spartanburg, South Carolina on Friday night. Commentary will be provided by Chad Andrews and Georgina Ruiz Sandoval. New for the series will be the inaugural Soul City Criterium on April 26  in downtown Augusta as the fourth stop on the 2022 Speed Week Tour.

“One of our favourites in the entire universe is Walterboro, on Wednesday [April 27]. The population is just 6,000 people and they come up with prize money and do it every year. That’s fantastic,” event organiser Gene Dixon, who’s been involved in criterium events for four decades, told Cyclingnews. His signature event is Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium, which he founded in 1980.

“Augusta is new for this year. They wanted to do it, and it’s a great venue. It's got a brewery on one end smack in the middle of downtown and it's got a fountain on the other end. So it's fun. But they're all fun.”

The main event of the week is the Athens Twilight Criterium on April 30. Along with the Spartanburg Criterium, these two races have the richest prize purses of $15,000 each. New for Speed Week is a Friday night ‘On The Stage’ race in downtown Athens. 

“It's just head-to-head computer racing. We did this before, back in the 2000s I think. Back then it was eight [riders at a time]. And now we have a little more flexibility because we could probably run 20 people at a time. The top finishers from each heat will go to a final. So the last thing of the night is the final, and they get awarded start positions for Saturday,” Dixon explained about their version of Friday night lights with virtual racing.

The Augusta, Athens, Spartanburg and Walterboro crits have standard four-corner setups, with the other crits creating a variation of short-course designs, Hapeville with eight corners.

Speedweek winners will be announced at the conclusion of the College Park race on May 1, tabulating points earned across all eight races for three intermediate sprints (top five only) and the finish in pro men’s and pro women’s categories. In addition, GC winners of the two-race Spin the District competitions for pro men and pro women will be awarded.

Teams to watch

The L39ION of Los Angeles women expect to have a full squad at Speed Week with Skylar, sister Samantha Schneider, who won Athens Twilight in 2018, Kendall Ryan and sister Alexis, and Julyn Aguila. They’ll face stiff competition to start the series from CWA Racing p/b Goldman Sachs ETFs, Virginia’s Blue Ridge TWENTY24, and others.

“A few of us on the team have been doing all or parts of Speedweek for nearly a decade so to be able to do the full series this year is going to be cool,” Skylar Schneider, the winner of the 2021 Athens Twilight and current leader of American Criterium Cup, told Cyclingnews. “Athens will always be iconic and one race to look forward to all year!”

The L39ION men have a full squad of eight men at the five-day stage race. After two days of racing, Freddy Ovett was leading the men’s GC standings.

With all eight races based in close proximity in Georgia and South Carolina, southern-based Ty Magner and Ian Garrison will represent L39ION in the all the men’s events along with Sean McElroy, and other teammates joining for the second half of the series. Magner, third at Sunny King Criterium, is on form for a first-time win in his hometown of Athens, having finished second twice and never out of the top five in four trips.

“We’ll be racing all of SpeedWeek, it’ll be a blast! Athens is always my goal,” Magner said. “We are even deeper than we were last year - it’s exciting to get the new guys into the fold and show them how much fun this sport can be in America.”

Other men’s teams to give L39ION a run for their money in the series are Best Buddies Racing, who have posted 22 podium positions in just two months, ButcherBox Cycling, Nashville Local Wolfpack, and Texas Roadhouse Cycling.

Online registration for Augusta and Walterboro races close April 25 at 10:00 EST and for Athens and College Park events on April 27 at 22:00 EST. 

Speed Week 2022 schedule

  • Friday, April 22 - Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Criterium (South Carolina) 
  • Saturday, April 23 - Spin the District Criterium: Hapeville (Georgia)
  • Sunday, April 24 - LaGrange Cycling Classic (Georgia)
  • Tuesday, April 26 - Soul City Criterium (Georgia)
  • Wednesday, April 27 - Downtown Walterboro Criterium (South Carolina)
  • Friday, April 29 - Athens Twilight “On The Stage” Race (Georgia)
  • Saturday, April 30 - Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium p/b Michelob Ultra (Georgia)
  • Sunday, May 1 - Spin the District Criterium: College Park (Georgia)

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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).