Red Hook Crit : Brooklyn No.10
text : William Lewis - photo : Gophrette Power
Where to start? I think I’ll actually start by saying that limiting Red Hook Crit to a race is incredibly reductive. The Crit is an amazing event that brings people from all horizons together for almost 5 days. People that don’t necessarily have cycling as a background, or as their main activity, but who all want the same thing, try to have as much fun as possible and qualify for the main race.
Also, before I get to the report, I is important for me to thank the organisers, David Trimble along with his family, Gabe and Kacey Lloyd, the whole RHC crew and all the volunteers, that year after year do an amazing job making us feel safe and make the event grow bigger and bigger without making it any less fun! They all deserve a round of applause for what they do I think, dealing with sweaty athletes, full of adrenaline that all have an ego of their own isn't easy, I guess.
This year the qualifying system had changed from timed laps to an actual heat race, making it quite more fun, safer and probably fairer for the racers! I was in heat 3, the hardest according to all, everything was going well until a little rock washed out my front wheel under me in the hairpin of the 3rd lap. I was in first position at that moment, very frustrated. Even though I got up very quick, I could hardly breathe and my back was hurting, by the time I managed to control my breathing and push again on the pedals, I probably was last. I chased alone for the rest of the heat, and eventually managed to hold on to 24th position, which meant that I had a spot in the last chance! Just like the year before..
Last Chance race was quick, both Stephan and Eamon were there, as they both had mechanicals, so I thought I just needed to stick to the front with them, I guess it worked since I got 4th place (just like last year again), which meant I would start the final 94th on the grid. Legs felt really good, despite the fact that I only had been training again for 3 weeks after 2 weeks off the bike because of a fractured scaphoid. I was looking forward to the race.
I had noticed that my back wasn’t hurting when all the muscles were warm, so I decided to go early on the rollers, which meant that by race time, everything felt normal, and I felt very good. At moment, I thought that I wasn't too stressed about the race, but in hindsight, I was freaked out, I saying this because I had time to think about how I dealt with the events of the race, and I probably could have done things differently.
The countdown is always something crazy, the crowd is so loud I couldn't even hear the speaker, I only just relied on the people shouting and the other riders. Writing this, right now, almost a week after the event is giving me goose bumps. I had never experienced that, I’m an Elite Road racer in France with over 350 race starts with international races, national champs and so on, and nothing has ever beaten the RHC crowds.
TEN, NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX, FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE!! The first pedal stroke is crucial, clipping in is my only obsession. I manage it on the first try, which means I don’t lose any postions. I see Stephan, who started next to me, already going up pretty quick, I decide to calm things down and climb back up the order slowly. I didn't want to over do it, nor did I want to crash again. Two laps go by and then I decide it’s time to push and get up the midfield, the straights for me where perfect for that, I was over powering most of the riders there with my bigger gear ratio (most of the guys have 49x14, I race a 52x14).
Slowly but surely, I gain position by position, and then by lap 8, riders crash in the hairpin, I was right behind, magically keep it up but I unclip, which made me lose at least 10 postions again. At this point I think my morale took a hit, as I almost gave up on the chase. Couple of laps later, I see a gap, I try to bridge it but it was too late, we had been dropped. Even though I knew I would not perform brilliantly on this race, my competitive inner self took over and I felt extremely frustrated, mad at my self almost. Now our goal was to finish the race, which meant not being caught by the pace bike. We were a group of seven or eight, working more or less consistently together, which meant that we were not loosing ground at all. In the last ten laps we were even gaining on the pack, there only was a 100m gap, as it seamed they had given up on catching the duo up in front.
Red Flag. Five laps to go, we see the red flags, none of us really understands why, we had seen no crashes in the last lap. It turns out the crash had happened two laps earlier, and Cesar was in a pretty bad state in area between the two hairpins. The race was stopped because they needed the medics to cross the course so that he could get taken to hospital as quick as possible. I wish him a speedy recovery, the crash was not a nice sight.
We will eventually restart the race with five laps to go, with the same time gaps. This annihilated all our hopes of catching the bunch, as it gave hopes again to everyone that was in the main group to finish top 25 and score points. We still finished with a fairly high pace the last five laps, but our goal was now to all make it safe, in the lead lap and all go party together after that.
As I crossed the finish line, I was happy with myself, but still felt like I could have done better. Then again, this was only the first of four races, and all my friends were safe, some of them had scratches and bumps but nothing too bad, one of them finished third in the women’s race and an other friend actually won the men’s race!
All in all, Red Hook Crit this year was a success, met amazing people once again, and I feel amazing in the new team Revo Racing that we created with friends.
Come soon London, I’m waiting for you…