So just a few minutes ago, I received a phone call from my buddy, Chad Thompson- team director of the A&F Pro Development Team (the Masi-sponsored team... yeah, MY boys).
Turns out that our very own Mark Hekman just a short while ago pulled off one the biggest upsets of recent years by winning the Athens Twilight Criterium! Yes, you read that right- A&F just won Athens! On a Masi 3VC frame and fork! Mark-freakin-Hekman is now officially The Man! Of all the criteriums in the US to win, Athens is arguably THE crit of choice. Ask nearly any crit racer in the country what crit they'd like to win and nearly all of them will say Athens. Athens is one of the crown jewels in US racing. And Mark and the A&F guys pulled off the win with just 6 riders in a star-filled field. ALL of the top US pro teams want to win Athens, especially since it is now part of the US crit championship series and part of the US Pro Tour.
Needless to say, this is the biggest win on a Masi in a very long time. More importantly, it is an amazing win for Mark Hekman. Having ridden with Mark during the team training camp last year, I got to know the guy and can honestly say that he's one of the nicest guys I've ever met. He's a class act guy, riding for a class act team. Tonight's race is all about the great group of guys in the race: Mark Hekman, Neal Coleman, Marco Aledia, Jim Baldeseare, Frankie Dierking and Rich Harper. These six managed to pull off the win of a lifetime against some of the biggest and baddest in the US. Needless to say, this proves that they are one helluva team! These guys have such amazing heart, the win makes me happiest on a personal level. Professionally, I can't wait for the news to get out and to get photos to use in ads and in the catalog... but this is really all about the guys and Mark.
After Chad called me with the news, I called Mark on his cell phone, where the celebration was definitely happening! He answered the phone with, "That's right! Who's your daddy?" His joy, and the joy of the rest of the team screaming in the background, was very evident. I don't envy the hangover he'll have tomorrow... but I sure wish I could be there to have a few drinks with them.
As soon as photos are available, I'll post them.
Congratulations Mark and all of the A&F team!