The 1896 CMRR IV is not a fixed gear crit, but such a cool fixed gear race does deserve some attention from us. Therefore, we asked Panos Sinopoulos to talk with Themis and Agi who are the main organizers of the 4th edition of the 1896 Classic Marathon Race Revival aptly named MANI INITATIONAL inspired by one of the first fixed gear races that took place during the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. Agi Kolyvas is also the owner of 48×17 Cycles, a bike shop located in the historical center of Athens and active member of the Greek cycling community.
This year the race will take place in southern Peloponnese, in a picturesque village of Kardamyli, Mani where author Patrick Leigh Fermor lived a long part of his life. The race is Sponsored by 8bar / All City Cycles / Cadence Collection. Themis and Agi will tell us more about the conception-evolvement and the future plans of this event.
Text: Panos Sinopoulos
Photos by: Steffan Lowstedt, Petros Gkotsis, Vagelis Paravas
Guys, thank you for your time. You recently announced the date for the 4th edition of your race. Could you tell us a bit more about what 1896 CMRR IV is about?
MANI INVITATIONAL is the fourth edition of 1896 CMRR, a fixed gear race that we organize every 2 years in Greece. The race replicates a truly epic battle that took place in Athens on 1896 as part of the first modern Olympic Games with brakeless fixed gear bikes (all bikes were fixed wheel at the time). The distance covered at the time was from Athens to Marathon village and back (aprox 80klm) and was won by Aristidis Constantinidis after a great battle.
When we first organized 1896CMRR there was a lack of long distance fixed gear races (still true in a way) and we thought that the Marathon concept was a great idea that could flourish in todays’ fixed gear scene. We had great response all these years and here we are again to take the race a step further. It is an event based on participation but it always attracts high level of sportsmanship that blends with a true unique fun factor.
How would you describe the evolvement of the race since the first one in 2012? Have you encountered any obstacles in organizing the race in the municipality of Athens?
Agi: We all come from organizing unsanctioned street races for a full 10 years now so the 1896 CMRR was based on these foundations in the beginning. We were fortunate and honored to have top level cyclists participating all these years, either form the local ELITE racing teams or from the international fixed crit scene and we are happy that it is always a challenge for everyone that participates to excel in this race.
The main peculiarity with Athens and every metropolitan area is the traffic that is unpredictable. Other than that the original course is super-good but we feel that we wanted to try something else too.
Has the race managed to attract international athletes throughout the years?
We had great response from riders worldwide. We had cyclists from Italy, UK, USA, Russia and many cities all over Greece. The event was felt internationally after Francesco Martucci raced and won it few years back. This year we are expecting great racers and cool people like Chas Christiansen (MASH), Nico Deportago-Cabrera (All City/ Red Bull), John-Taki Theodoracopoulos, SCVDO Genova and maybe a few other surprises that we won’t reveal at this moment.
Why a different location this year?
Themis: After the 3rd 1896 CMRR we felt that we wanted to try a diferrent set-up and not only a different location. The race will take place in a small village called Kardamili, set at about 30km southeast from the City of Kalamata, in the Peloponnese peninsula.
As a city kid, due to my Messinian lineage, I used to -and still do- spend most of my summers there. I had the race course in the books for quite some time. It all clicked when Agi visited the place, and we thought it would be epic to host an event for all our friends there.
Mani area of Greece offers all the elements we were looking for: beautiful location, traffic-free roads, steep but rolling climbs and panoramic bombing sections.
Which changes should we expect in the course?
Themis: Well, we leave the hectic, concrete-laden Athenian landscape behind, and we replaced it with epic, tidal roads consisted of mixed terrain and epic scenery. The elevation is a bit higher at 1000m, allowing for some tight up-hills and some super fun downhill parts through the course. No granny ratio friendly!
Do you put a lot from yourself when creating a race and what other events have you organized?
Agi: We always put 100% of ourselves in the races we organize. This is not a corporate type of cycling race backed by big-money cycling brands but a community bottom-to-top initiative. Our aim is to strengthen the local and international scene and create an atmosphere of positive attitude and camaraderie.
Based on this principle, as 48×17 Cycles, we also organize a CX/tracklocross race every winter and other non competitive events like bike camp-outs and roadbike holidays in the incredible Greek countryside. People in Europe haven’t realize what a real gem Greece is for year round cycling.
What is your opinion about the fixed gear scene (Greek and International), what are your personal goals and your plans for the future?
Agi: I am still really stoked on our evergrowing international community. The fixed gear “revolution” and the urban bike movement is all about positivity in life and that is still prevalent today. It has changed a lot for sure but it is still an inspirational scene that has a lot to give.
Themis: Riding a track bike on the streets has a different meaning for each individual. There is no specific end goal. That’s the beauty of it. There are so many different subcultures of it that it’s difficult even attempting to put them under the same label. For some it is/was a gateway to other forms of cycling, competitive or not. Others love the spiritual aspect of it and that’s cool too.
For sure, there are trends that become prevalent, throughout, and with the help of social media, but they come and go, as is everything. I don’t think it will fade anytime soon, it will keep evolving, with those who truly appreciate it being its tight core that will keep on shredding.
Thank you very much and good luck with the race!