(Set yourself goals and go for it)
Why did I race a fixed gear crit and why I can’t wait to do it again?
I wanted to celebrate my return to racing after a five year break with something special, a race that requires skills, power, endurance and is not quite as dangerous as downhill racing. The Redhook Crit seemed to fulfill all of the above requirements plus the added controversy from anonymous sources that it is only for hipsters, messengers and misfits. PERFECT.
Now that I knew the event, I had to start training and prepping for it. Training was kind of a problem because when I signed up for the race I actually still had my wrist in a cast from a motorcycle crash in October. I couldn’t really do much of anything, riding the rollers or home trainer wasn’t an option since the sweat was starting to turn the cast slowly into a chemical weapon that could stink up a room in a flash.
So I focused on setting up my track bike for the event. Sounds easy, right? NOT, there wasn’t really any info out there on what the racers are using. I had just bought a 2013 Leader 725 frame and wasn’t really sure what the setup should be. What gearing? What crank length? What tires? After days of research I decided to stick with a little easier gear than the recommended (by the promoter) 50x15 and installed a 49x15. Being paranoid on pedal strike when flying thru the turns also led me to mount 165mm cranks. The luxury of owning two wheel-sets allowed me to have both, my dry tires (tubular conti sprinters) and wet tires (clinchers conti GrandPrix 4000) at the race at the same time.
Setting a goal:
Once the cast came off I started training and getting in shape. There wasn’t as much time as I needed, but I thought it should be enough to at least qualify for the main event and be part of the big show that night.
Not knowing if there was any practice or if the course would be closed before the race, we (my better half and me) showed up at the Brooklyn Cruise ship terminal just a little before 10:00 am. The main entrance gate had one very persuasive Irish guard that only let the volunteers enter and made the racers line up left and right next to the gate. This is where we stood for the next 1 ½ hours and I witnessed the first sign that this wasn’t like any other high level cycling competition. The gate was supposed to open at 10:30am and the women’s qualifier was scheduled to start at 11:00am. But nobody was complaining, everybody just seemed to be hanging out with their team-mates, friends and fellow riders. We were told that because of a missing security guard we had to wait until the NYPD gave the green light to enter the Terminal. No big deal. This was the most chilled out line of racers I had ever seen. I have been to many races where this would have caused mayor drama and your standard spoiled prima donna pro racer would have had their knickers in a twist and a mayor meltdown. But not here, everybody was just enjoying the good company (and the good weather) and waited. Sooooo cool.
Hanging out and waiting for the gate to open:
Our home for the day:
After picking up my race package we where given a pit number. The pit was a small space that we shared with a couple of other racers. Who were those other racers? I had no idea but it was kind of like moving into a small apartment and meeting your new roomies for the first time. Everybody had a little corner, a chair and enough space to store their bike and race bag. The atmosphere was very calm and everybody looked like they knew what they where doing or really good at faking it. Whatever the case, this is where we meet Javi from PR and another local New Yorker Matt who had raced this event before and everbody was more than helpful answering all my annoying questions and giving some insides on what was about to happen.
Qualifier (being in group #6)
I knew I had to earn my stripes doing this event for the first time, but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Turns out being in group #6 was it. This is where most of the guys that have never done this line up at the start and have twenty minutes to put down a fast lap hoping to qualify for the main show later that night. Organizer and mastermind of this event David Trimble gave a little speech before start in which he said “this group usually has some crashes in it, so please be carful and keep it safe”.
Whoops, (we were doomed) as soon as he had mentioned crashes I could see some riders looking nervously around and clearly getting their anxiety level close code red.
This going to be interesting!!! After a one-minute countdown we were off. I wanted to start out easy, watch, learn the track for a couple of laps and hopefully find another racer who was willing to work together with me getting a fast lap in.
We had just finished our first lap, when on the right side two riders were heading side by side into the chicane and tried to occupy a small space between the field and barriers that could only fit one rider. There it was, they tangle bars and down they went. (no serious injuries) It was kind of strange, I think everybody was waiting for the mandatory first crash in group #6 and once it happened we could finally start focusing on doing what we came here to do. Fast laps on bikes without brakes. I ended up doing two full out sprinting laps and had the second fastest lap in group #6. But what did that mean? Apparently not much :)
There were five more groups after us, and with fast Teams working together setting new lap records heat after heat.
These guys were all fast:
85 riders qualify directly for the main event. If you qualify anywhere between 86 and 150 you have another shot, but you need to race the last chance qualifier. Well, I ended up 91st , if I would have been one second faster and I would have qualified the easy way. But hey, why easy if you can have it difficult?
I love bikes, but I also love good food. David (the organizer) managed to combine the two!!! (PERFECT - I was in heaven). Thanks to some of the best food trucks, lunch was amazing.
Last Chance qualifier:
This was a 14-lap race where the top ten finishers qualify for the main event. It was fast, controlled and I felt relatively safe riding thru all the turns in a tightly packed field. I stayed the whole race between the 2nd and 5th position and finished 2nd. Cool, I did it. I qualified for the Redhook crit.
The MAIN EVENT:
Since I made getting here the goal, I had already won. I could relax, try my best and see what happens. The atmosphere was amazing. The entire course was packed with spectators (some more drunk than others) and it felt more like a party than a bike race. Since I started all the way in the back I knew I would have a hard time making it to the front. (if ever) This got even clearer to me after the race started. The pace was super fast and the pack was all strung out. I was getting whipped around at the tail end of the pack for about twenty minutes before loosing contact with them. I found myself in a small group of six riders trying to close the gap, but another five minutes later we were far off the pace and getting close to being lapped. It was a little disappointing when we got pulled out of the race, but as soon as that happened I knew what my next goal is going to be. - and here it is:
A new goal:
“I want to finish a Redhook Crit in the main field”
HOOKED ON REDHOOK
Thanks to AirBnB and my credit card’s frequent flyer miles we are heading to London for the second round of the Redhook Crit series. Team DaHÄNGER also doubled in size since my wife Stacy is going to hang with the Lady’s as well.
This is going to be fun,
Life is too short to wait, go for it.