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The 10-race American Criterium Cup series begins with Speed Week’s Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight, presented by Michelob Ultra and Visit Athens, on Saturday, April 22. In its 43rd year, Athens Twilight is one of America’s oldest continuously run and largest criteriums, attracting over 20,000 spectators.
It’s a bucket-list race for professional athletes, and more than that, Athens is an experience for anyone who attends, racers and spectators alike.
If you’ve never stepped foot in the South, you should know that the only thing that rivals a UGA football game in SEC-crazy Athens, Georgia, is Athens Twilight. It’s a Southern tradition to embrace racing; horse, car, or even bicycle. If there’s beer, socializing, and something to watch and cheer for? Southerns are all in. And they come all in for Athens.
In the heart of downtown Athens, Georgia, and attracting many top professional and amateur cyclists worldwide, the race returns to its original course after a three-year hiatus due to construction.
Crowd favorite Chad Andrews returns for his 19th year announcing and will be joined by retired professional Frankie Andreu. This year’s event is expected to draw a large crowd, with tens of thousands of spectators lining the streets. If you plan to attend the Athens Twilight Criterium, arrive early to secure a good spot along the course. And if you can’t make it in person, a live stream will be available right here on Outside Watch.
The race is streaming live on Outside Watch. The women roll out at 7:00 p.m. EDT, followed by the men at 8:15 p.m. EDT.
The American Criterium Cup
The American Criterium Cup is 10 iconic events in the US, showcasing the beauty and challenge of the sport and providing an essential stage for an international cast of athletes.
Last year, Brandon Feehery won the Men’s title and Maggie Coles-Lyster the Women’s. While Brandon returns with a new team, the Miami Blazers, Maggie will be racing on an international stage this year. However, L39ion is joining the series this year, and their inclusion, along with the two newly formed NCL teams, brings some serious speed to both fields.
This year, women’s and men’s fields will feature the full depth of the US domestic peloton.
Who to watch
The entire domestic peloton looks strong this year, and after some early season results, several teams and riders could make an impact at the ACC and the domestic scene. But a few 2022 standout teams return to the ACC and deserve a nod as teams and riders to watch as the series progresses.
Project Echelon Racing is a team representing something more significant than cycling by using its platform to educate, equip and empower US military veterans. Last year they captured three top steps in the ACC. Despite some roster changes, John Heinlein is a rider to step into the vacant spot of last year’s overall winner and one to watch. Finishing 4th at US Pro Nationals Criterium in 2021 and being the pilot fish for Ethan and Brandon in last year’s American Criterium Cup. John is one of the few riders in the peloton that can fight for position in the final corner of the country’s biggest races, and we expect this four-year veteran of the team to make an impact. Sam Morris joined the team in 2023, moving from Above and Beyond Cancer after earning several top-10s in some of the country’s biggest races like Tulsa Tough and the Armed Forces Cycling Classic. With a more experienced team at the helm of the race, Sam can be a crucial player in any major bunch finish.
Every season brings challenges with transfers, and this year brought changes for this team. In the plus column is Brandon “Monk” Feehrey, the ACC winner of both overall and sprint jerseys. And while Brandon might not be the fastest guy out there, what he is is consistent and consistently fast is huge in cycling. A crowd favorite, Monk will once again be shooting for that top step with his new team behind him. Joining him this year are standouts like Danny Estevez, Tanner Ward, Ruben Companioni, Dante Young, Spencer Moavenzadeh, and the list goes on; this team has a deep roster that will be a severe threat not only at ACC races but wherever they line up.
American Cycling may be a new name, but this team, an evolution of last year’s Best Buddies, won the Team competition last year by a good margin. And while they lost a few riders to transfers, the core team, headed by riders like Michael Hernadez and Robert Sierra, remains intact. This team had a challenging series last year after a fantastic start, losing series-leading rider Alfredo Rodriquez to injury and experiencing a challenging second half. But in the interim, the athletes and management restructured and appear to be returning stronger than before. Expect Dannie Summerhill, who won his one and only ACC event, to play an essential role as American Cycling looks to make a name for itself.
Last year, L39ION’s Ty Magner and Skylar Schneider were a mainstay on ACC event podiums, but the team chose not to participate in scoring, so they did not rank in ACC results. This year, however, joining the series, we’ll see heightened competition from many L39ION riders shaking up the series overall. Legion will have multiple riders from both squads who can take the win at any race, and they will be a serious hurdle to anyone looking for the overall win. Brothers Williams, Sisters Schnieder, and Ryan; no one can let their guard down when L39ion of Los Angeles is racing. With growing competition, both squads won’t easily relinquish their position as the top criterium team in the US. Having just announced their schedule, the team doesn’t appear to have a total ACC attendance, but what they have planned may be enough to keep them in the hunt for a final ACC podium step.
A new NCL team, the Miami Nights, along with the Denver Disruptors, will be chasing the ACC win. Having just raced their first NCL event and dominating the other teams, both teams have the depth to place highly in the ACC. But it’s the Nights you should pay attention to in the ACC with a format more suited to the criterium athletes on both squads. The men’s team has last year’s second, third, and fourth-placed riders in Clever Martinez, Alfredo Rodriguez, and Bryan Gomez, respectively. Over on the women’s squad is 2022 second-placed Andrea Cyr. Alfredo will be one to watch: he missed four events last year after a broken collarbone and still had enough points to finish third from his dominant placings leading up to Boise.
The women’s squad stood out last year, with Andrea Cyr taking second place overall and the squad second in the overall team competition. They were an example of teamwork all season, ensuring their leader was in the right place and time. Though largely a new squad, the new riders are no strangers to the ACC, with riders like Melanie Wong, who placed twelfth last year, Rachael Plessing, Kaitlyn Agnew, and returner Paige Kostanecki; let’s see who steps into that leadership role with Andrea moving on. The men’s squad faced a deeper field of competition and a schedule that mixed ACC races with other events. Still, consistent strong placings put them in our top five in our team competition. Eduardo Cruz was their best-placed rider last year with 19th. Always a solid team to be aware of, with a depth of riders to reach the podiums, a second season of the ACC will likely see a focus that puts them higher in our rankings.
If you want an exciting team to follow in the ACC, it’s DNA Pro Cycling. A US-based UCI Women’s Continental team with a full international road racing schedule, they consistently prioritize hitting the US criterium scene. Last year the team targeted and succeeded in getting the overall individual ACC win with sprinter Maggie Coles-Lyster, who also won the Canadian national road and criterium championships. As Coles-Lyster moved to a European team, DNA bolstered its roster with a crop of promising new sprinters, including Sarah Van Dam, a Canadian rider who dominated last year’s Pan American Track Championships with four gold medals, and Olivia Cummins, the reigning US U23 national criterium champion. DNA’s ‘squad of sprinters’ will be led by the English rider Harriet Owen, a back-to-back gold medalist in the Junior British national track championships and a silver medal at the UCI Junior Track World Championships. With a supporting cast of experienced road racers, including the Colombian national road champion, Mexican national TT champion, and a former collegiate national road champion, expect to see the DNA sprinters dominating the front of the ACC again.
A mainstay of the women’s peloton, LA Sweat riders are among the most consistent riders in the field, resulting in fourth in our team competition; you never had to look far down the line for these riders. Individually, Mariana Valadez can upset anyone looking for a win, placing seventh overall. And with a sprinting ability that puts her on podiums and fourth last year in our sprint race, Mariana is one move away from climbing higher in our race this season. She’s one to watch.
The American Criterium Cup Races
- Speed Week’s Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight, presented by Michelob Ultra and Visit Athens.* Athens, GA. April 22, 2023
- Sunny King Criterium.* Anniston, AL. May 6, 2023
- Saint Francis Tulsa Tough.* Tulsa, OK. June 9, 2023
- Kwik Trip Tour of America’s Dairyland. Grafton, WI. June 17, 2023
- Bailey Glasser Boise Twilight Criterium. Boise, ID. July 8, 2023
- Salt Lake Criterium.* Salt Lake City. July 15, 2023.
- Intelligentsia Cup. Chicago, IL. July 29, 2023.
- Audi Denver Littleton Criterium.* Littleton, CO. August 5, 2023
- IU Health Momentum Indy. Indianapolis, IN. August 26, 2023
- Bommarito Audi Gateway Cup. St. Louis, MO. September 3, 2023
*Event is live streamed. See the event website for details.