From MTL to BRKLN : The Red Hook Criterium

From MTL to BRKLN : The Red Hook Criterium

It is the end of the winter, it is still snowing, I open my Facebook, to which I am very engaged in the fixed gear community, and its id the BIG DAY : everyone is announcing their official signups to the Brooklyn Red Hook Crit at the end of April. This ends up being like a torrent on social media and it is just a simple reminder of the fact that very soon, riding our bikes in the slush with our boots and our mittens will soon be over ! Yeah ! We are getting ready to take out our nice bikes, our thin bike tires, our short-sleeved jerseys and start working on our cyclist tan lines.

After this realization comes the major expansion of the statistics on Strava : everyone starts getting active and working out in order to be at the peak of their physical strength in less than a few weeks. This means a return appearance at the gym, getting in touch with our trainer, getting back to the spinning, the jogging. All of us make our own sacrifices since the fixed gear criterium is very technical and demands difficult training. Also, this is pretty much the first race for all those runners that are in hibernation in Montreal, so basically, we lose most of our friends to the beer tours…

“ You going to New York? ”

This is the MAIN question that you ask your fellow bike friends that you run into as early as the beginning of the month of April. Generally, the answer to this question is yes ! It has been a few years now that Montreal is well represented at the RHC in Brooklyn, as much by its teams, than its independant runners and it’s growing crowd spectators. Over the years, I have noticed a certain feeling of shared pride, of the large Montreal crew that stops by and makes a scene as a large pack to a race as big as this one. You hear more and more french speakers on site the day of the event. Props Montreal ! We also have to give a shout out to our own runners that have proven themselves during the RHC and that have been signed by even larger international teams (ex: Josh Tyrell with  State Bicycle Co. , Christian Trenchev with Dosnoventa and State Bicycle Co. and this year Raphaele Lemieux from IBike who was ranked 4th in the women’s category ! Woot Woot !).

Over there in Brooklyn, we make the most out our chance to visit bike shops that we simply cannot miss (King Kog and R&A Cycles), and from New York (the Chrome boutique, Larry’s cycles,  Café Rapha ). Even as a tourist, we find the same “family feel” in their bike shops from that area. It is as if Home is where your cycling passion is. The fixed gear culture over there is larger, it has a bigger expansion and its structure is more solid and defined.

Brooklyn King Kog

From the moment you thrive for adrenaline, playing out in the heavy Manhattan traffic is non negotiable. It may seem more of a free for all than the Montreal, but the Manhattan cycling scene organizes itself like a true Tetris champion. And in all cases, you must take a moment to soak in the spring, to chill in the many parks, to relax on the side of the water, to enjoy a yummy ice cream cone and to potentially get one of your first sunburns.

In the days before the race, you have the possibility to see some big teams like Canyon and Specialized in the middle of their training, and you can ride circles in Prospect Park (the equivalent, but on a larger scale, than the Lafontaine park in Montreal). Often followed by their video team, it is impressive to see fixed gear teams with as much budget as they do. Also, as soon as you encounter someone in the street with even the slightest amount of esthetics, a certain eye contact is established and both of you know that your paths will cross once again on the Saturday of the race.  

The lineup of activities at the RHC includes, just like every year, a pre-party and an after-party (open to all, but always full !), and even on the day of the race, the emphasis is put on the social aspect on a day of crit. What has previously started 10 years ago as a party/race for the founder, Dave Trimble, has not lost its festive essence even if it is now part of a series of competitions on a worldwide scale.

It is unanimous to all the cyclists that have been encountered: what brings as many people to participate in the Red Hook Crit is the funny and festive vibe of the event. But what creates this noticeably special ambiance

Photo Cred: Marie Vallieres

So. many. things.

A heterogeneous crowd that shares the same passion for fixed gear cycling; The fact that it is a renowned event in its tenth edition; A magical spot : a view on the Manhattan skyline that is breathtaking; Many teams of professionals and amateurs from all over the world; A strong female presence in the competitions; All kinds of goodies offered to the public and the RHC souvenir shop that constantly offers audacious designs; A racing circuit that is very technical, along with strategic areas for the spectators; The fixed gear is itself is presented as a fun event in itself, no need to know about the discipline in its entirety in order to have a good time. And finally, passionate organizers  that follow through with their project, all while highly enjoying and seizing the moment.

Before all else, a mechanical inspection is done on all the bikes in order to reduce the risk of accidents as much as possible. After this come time for the qualifications, which are used to determine who will be the racers in the men’s category, and to determine the takeoff positions of the guys and the girls. It is done in small groups and used to filter through those who do not go fast enough, those who do not hold as much experience and those who do not control their bike well enough. All of this happens in the afternoon. We mainly go to encourage our friends and to take it easy in the sun while drinking a few beers and discovering local food trucks.

Photo Cred: Marie Vallieres

And finally, there are the races. The main event. The moment when you see the runners glide by so quickly on the track than they seem blurred or out of focus. The moment when you hold your breathe if a crash happens and that the organisers must take out their emergency flags. The moment when you scream and heavily ring your bell to encourage racers that you have no idea what team they belong to. The moment when you do everything possible to receive phone signal since people are bombarding social media with photos and stories. The moment when you analyse the racing strategies of both individual and team riders. The moment when you admire all of these people that obviously dedicate a large part of their life to fixed gear, event to which you also identify yourself.

Feel like following the latest news on other criteriums? FixedGearCrit is a must.

Sad about the fact that you couldn’t make it? Here are nice reviews of the RHC Brooklyn 2017 by  Manual For Speed & Mash.

You find racing the RHC is intense? See  Kym add a 5k run to her RedHook day in Brooklyn!

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