Hmmm, just got asked this question by @Nashvillcyclist –
@nashvillcylist – an interesting question
The short answer is that Athens Twilight is the more difficult race because there are so many more variables that have to work out perfectly for a good finish (or even to finish at all). On the other hand, Sunny King is normally harder aerobically because there is no place to rest on the course. If you saw @AdamMyerson’s power data from the previous year’s Twilight race, (link below), you’ll notice that you get a “rest” every lap in Athens Twilight. This is not the case on the Sunny King course, you never really get a chance to rest on that course.
As far as numbers go, here is a side-by-side comparison of both races. I’ve posted my 2009 ride file as that is the only time I have finished. In 2008, I was in a wreck on about lap 60 that stopped the race. My rear derailleur cable was broken in the wreck, and the SRAM neutral bikes had already been given out. I lasted about three more laps in my 53×11 unable to shift and then crashed out for good on Lap #64 coming into turn #1 too hot so that I could try to carry my momentum up the hill on turn #2. I decided to call it a day. In 2009, I had a great race and made it into a late race breakaway very late in the race. When there was an attack from within our break (Heath Blackgrove), I was one of the riders who got caught out. Three riders stayed away with Heath taking the win. The rest of us in the break (maybe five of us) got caught by the field with about 5 laps to go. I finished 24th in the field sprint (27th for the race).
2009 Athens Twilight heartrate summary
2011 Sunny King heartrate summary
Here in tabular form is a side by side comparison
|2009 Athens||2009 Sunny||2011 Sunny|
|Avg speed (mph)||28.0||28.2||27.5|
The last statistic (number of laps) seals the deal for Athens Twilight as the more difficult race. To put it in perspective, the second lap of Athens Twilight is the most difficult lap of the entire race. The first lap bunches up and you are still full of adrenaline. By the second lap, everyone has separated enough for the race to be completely strung out single file through the start/finish line. You are absolutely crushing it as you fly through the start/finish line wondering if you can even hold onto the wheel in front of you. You look up and you see 78 on the lap card, which means you get to go around 78 more times before the finish. Ah yes, this is Athens Twilight.