Red Hook Crit Barcelona 2016
Red Hook Crit in Barcelona is without doubt every fixed crit racer’s event of the year Those that can tend to fly in early or extend their trip after the race because it’s so much fun hanging out at the beach and riding around the city with friends you sometimes only get to see at a few events spread through the year.
Much like last year, Dave and I decided to treat it as our summer holiday taking a whole week off to ride bikes, swim, eat out, relax, go for beers and race, so pretty much a dream holiday for me. But unlike last year, rather than spending the days before the crit kind of nervously anticipating racing, this year I felt relaxed enough to forget about it until a few last minute nerves right before the main event.
Our budget for the trip didn’t stretch as far as normal – thanks Brexit – so it was a real pain trying to find a place to stay that wasn’t crazily expensive whilst slightly rubbish. Luckily, our friend Sami came through and arranged for us to borrow her friends place, turning up with a jangling bunch of keys on our first night as she did the rounds sorting out apartments for various out-of-towners.
The next morning we woke to an incredibly hot bluebird day and hopped on our track bikes to ride up to the Velodrome d’Horta. I was on the same Charge Bikes machine as the year before which I’d modified slightly by switching to Cinelli sprinter’s bars with Supacaz tape, adding a longer stem and removing a spacer to lower the bars. Anticipating hills, I rode up on a city gearing of 48:18 taking a spare sprocket so I could switch to a different gear at the velodrome.
Photos: Sami Moreno
After a detour over a few hills and up several staircases we made it to the track for a sweltering 40-degrees ride. The heat packed a real punch so I tried not to overdo it plus I didn’t want to trash my legs for Saturday’s race. I tried a few flying laps and rode around with the guys for a bit then couldn’t resists the lure of the beach and a dip in the sea.
Friday meant more beaching and swimming (with flippers!) then a decision to skip the pre-race party at the Dosnoventa store – both Dave and I enjoy a beer and would have found it impossible to resist having a few so it seemed safer not to go at all. Red Hook Crit is one of my favourite races of the year so I’m not going to give myself a disadvantage by dehydrating myself and having disrupted sleep. Having said that, it was pretty much impossible to sleep anyway as it was so crazily hot, in fact one night I tried sleeping next to a large, chilled bottle of water I’d got from the fridge and more than once I drenched myself in a cold shower in the middle of the night. Thank god I don’t live somewhere hot!
Photo: Dave Noakes
The day of the race we rolled down to Park Del Forum, gazing at the incredible blue of the sea to our right. This year, the organisers give riders the chance to test out the course before qualifiers so I had a quick go and then got stuck into the main topic of Red Hook Crit race day – which gear to use on your bike. Everyone wanted to know what gear everyone else was using because selecting the wrong one could prove costly.
Photo: Dave Noakes
For those of you not into riding track bikes, let me explain:
Unlike ‘normal’ bikes, on a fixed gear/track bike, you only have one gear, that you can adjust before the race by changing the toothed sprocket on the hub of the rear wheel or by changing the chain ring at the front. Choose a heavy gear and it will be very hard to push the pedals around at first (after a corner), but once you are rolling you’ll be going very fast. Choose a lighter, spinnier gear and it’s easier to push the pedals as you sprint out of a corner but once you’re going fast your legs with be going like the clappers.
Photo: Ian S Walton for Soigneur
Gear selected, it was time to warm up and ride the qualifiers, the aim of which is to set a fast lap that will see you seeded or gridded near the front of the main race. Like many Red Hook women racers, I have no team mates so setting a fast time is made difficult by the fact I either have to go on my own or try and figure out when someone else is going and ride behind them to take advantage of the slip stream effect. In the end, I didn’t set a great time but called it quits before trying again as it was so damn hot that I felt pretty crap, plus I wanted to save my legs for the race.
Photo: Dani Ap
When race time came that evening, I lined up in grid position 21 eager to get a good start and get round some of the riders in front of me as soon as possible. My heart rate was so high – Zone 2.8 – because of my nervous anticipation even though I was just standing there not even moving! When the race began I pedaled round a couple of riders and made up a few places then tried my hardest to hold on to my position in the lead bunch whilst everyone went hell for leather trying to win the ‘prime,’ a special prize for the first person over the line on the opening lap.
The first few laps done and dusted, I settled in for a tough half hour – Red Hook Crits are brutally tough and the field included full time professional road racers. The course was quite open and fast with just one tight, technical hairpin turn that people took ever so slowly, way slower that I would have taken it but as I was not on the front I had no option but to slow down too then try and get back on top of my gear and sprint away again. The gear I’d chosen proved tricky at that point though I was glad of it on the straights.
Photo: Stefan Heahnel
After settling into a bit of a rhythm, I remember thinking to myself ‘wow, you’re still in the lead group, you’re really doing it!’ It was really nice to feel like I actually could and moreover was riding a good race. I’m often unsure of how my body will respond until I’m in the thick of things so I don’t like to anticipate or hope for any specific results when I race, I just set out to enjoy it and complete it. But sometimes, like with Fixed 42 World Championships, I notice things are going well and I think ‘ooh,’ I could do OK here!
As the laps counted down I began to figure out who to avoid, who not to worry about and which lines various people took around the corners. And I began to think about the finish. As we got closer and closer to the last few laps, I made sure not to leave it to late to get myself a good position, moving up the inside a few places and staying there. With half a lap to go, I just thought ‘sod it,’ and stomped on the pedals to blast up the inside and past the other riders, getting a surprise head start on the other sprinters. I briefly enjoyed being in the lead before the pain of my legs and lungs took over and I felt the black mist of the pain cave cloud everything.
Photo: Ginger Beard Photo
I tried as hard as I could to push on and fight through the pain, aware of riders overtaking me as I tried to reach the finish as quickly as possible. At that point, I couldn’t tell how many had done so but I became aware of Red Hook Crit series leader Ash Duban creeping up on my left. The pair of us battled it out and both pushed our bikes forwards as we rode through the line, hoping to gain an extra inch and finish one spot higher. In the end, I managed to hold her off (by about a centimeter!) and finished 8th as well, my best ever result in the Red Hook Crit.
I’m really proud of my result and it still makes me smile to think about the race!
My race day video is below. Hope you like it! If you do, please Subscribe to my YouTube channel. Thanks!