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Destroy Everything! Red Hook Crit Brooklyn 2018

Racing bikes is all about balance. Yes, you need it to stay upright but I’m talking about equilibrium of a difference sense here. It’s a world of extreme highs and lows. And though we’d all like more of the former, as long as the two meet somewhere in the middle, we’re good.

It’s the same with risk. Bike racers make constant evaluations of the level of risk, making split second decisions that balance reward vs potential consequences. Every time we race we’ve decided the reward is worth a gamble and we roll the dice.

There’s so much that’s outside of your control when you participate in such an activity. Actually, in all the activities I particularly enjoy. It’s funny really, because I’m neither fearless nor crazy, in fact I consider my actions very carefully. When I was a pro-snowboarder my self-preservation instinct was actually a hindrance and I could have done with ‘just going for it’ a little more. Ditto with BMX. With bike racing I like to hope it makes me a smart racer.

 

 

Photo: Ola Morken

 

Red Hook Crit has a bit of a reputation (largely amongst those on the outside) as a bit of a wild race, mainly because the media has a habit of replaying only the crashes rather than the victorious, skilled and powerful athletes at the head of the race. There are crashes in many of the road races I watch and attend too but that’s glossed over because they people in Red Hook are riding brakeless track bikes so they must be nutters.

 

Photo: Ola Morken

 

Still, despite the fact I’m always pointing out the crashes in road races, let’s have a little honesty. Red Hook Crit does have a sketchy side and there are often accidents because very strong cyclists with little or no (!) experience of riding a fixed gear bike lose control. Accidents due to factors outside your control, I can deal with, plus we all make mistakes sometimes. Accidents caused by complete recklessness, over estimation of your skill or disregard for other’s safety I have a problem with.

 

I love Red Hook Crit

 

Anyway, the point I’m finally getting to is that I love Red Hook Crit and I go into it fully prepared for what might happen, having accepted the risk that involves. By the law of averages, sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t. At Red Hook Crit Brooklyn they didn’t!

I was really excited to race for the first time for my new fixed crit sponsor, Wyndymilla on a gorgeous carbon bike. Click here to find out more about it.

 

Photos: Erick Ospina

 

For 2018, David Trimble had decided to change the qualifying format of the race so that more people got to race rather than flying half the way around the world to be knocked out in qualifications. The new format would see all the women line up together for their qualification round with the top 30 finishers advancing straight to the finals, the second thirty finishers going into a ‘Second Chance Race’ for another bash at getting into the main event. The remaining riders would be eliminated.

Start positions are important at Red Hook Crit as unlike most of the road races I do, you’re gridded. Essentially this means that the fastest riders get a head start, which is kind of mad in a way – like they need it! Still, having been near the front myself, I can tell you it feels good!

 

Photo: Eric Ospina

 

I didn’t have an amazing start position as though I came 8th in London in 2016, I came last in Barcelona then had an average result in Milan. This meant I’d have to get round a lot of people and catch up with the leaders before they disappeared. Not an easy feat but I managed a good start and made my way forwards.

For the next few laps I was sitting further back than I wanted, probably in about 20th position so I decided to try and move up more, which was tough to say the least. I wanted to finish in a good position as that would determine my place on the starting grid of the main race, which again is important. My legs felt really good, ditto my breathing so I figured I just needed to find some safe places to get past and I’d have a decent chance.

Ten minutes into qualifications, I was sitting on the far right of the group so I could move up at the first available opportunity, rolling along an easy, straight part of the course. All of a sudden, I was barged into the barriers to my right, forced to the edge of the track with nowhere to go. As I went toward the barrier, all I thought was ‘oh damn, this is going to be really bad.’ The next thing I knew I was upside down on metal. My bike came crashing down behind me, swiftly followed by a further two riders who’d had no chance of escape either.

 

Photo: Sylvia Galliani

 

I stood up immediately and left fly with a stream of expletives. I swore, swore and swore some more, so frustrated that I’d trained all winter and flown to NYC to be taken out of the event in the blood qualis! Then I burst into tears. My race was over and it turned out I’d snapped my bike and written off a brand new custom helmet and Giro shoes. My skinsuit was ripped too, just to complete the devastation. Luckily, everything was insured by Bikmo but I can’t say I was feeling that lucky.

I’ve since heard that the reason I was pushed over was because a crash occurred on the left of the peloton and everyone swerved rights to avoid, riding me into the barriers. Which still sucks but at least makes a little more sense.

If you’d like to see what happened at Red Hook Crit Brooklyn take a look at my race day video below:

 

 

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I still think the reward is worth the risk.

 

Comments (2)
  1. Kenneth Thomas September 8, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    You inspire me to be to get out and ride my bike for fun, fitness and life, thank you! I’ve learned so much about riding fixed gear bikes from watching your videos and reading your blog. I rode BMX in my youth, but now I want to concentrate on Fixed gear track bikes. I built a frame up 2009 Felt Tk2 last year and just finished a 2018 Specialized Langster track build this year. Thanks again for the inspiration to get out there, ride and have fun in life.

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