A year on and I was back to New York, the same time of the year but with a brood of keen and restless Pedlas Pursuit’ers.
I never imagined I would be back so soon, doing the same trip from the airport, dragging a harp looking case with my De Ver bike cradled inside.
As six of us and five hefty bike boxes cramped in a minivan were making tracks from the JFK airport to our AirBnb,, the memories of the city were swiftly surfacing in my superbly jet-lagged head. “Here I rode on my way to the Prospect park and here I was stopped by the law enforcement buddies…for speeding like a maniac trying to catch all the greens and not so green lights.” When asked why I was in such a rush I frankly answered that I was freezing and famished and produced my Latvian passport and a perfectly charming smile. The ticket never followed.
We had whole seven days to waste in NYC and Red Hook Crit was not until Saturday, so plenty of time to put feet up and have some jolly time. God, however, had different plans for us.
After building the bikes up, me and Will decided to venture out towards Williamsburg (we were staying in Flatbush, Brooklyn). On the Flushing avenue Will’s tyre popped. Having our bags re-packed and leaving in a rush, we discovered that between us we had a couple of spanners and tyre levers, but no pump nor inner tube. So flipping useful.
Even more than his bike’s tyre Will has deflated into a long speechless sulk. Hello Holidays, here we come! His feet tightly laced into corset-like Sidis were way far from comfortable, which I gathered from the unspoken slouch of Will’s shoulders. Ahead of us was what looked like an endless, grey looking land of industrial heyday. We detoured to a nearest bike shop, which Google Maps was promising to be found just literally around the corner. We walked and walked. Who knew ( I did !) that the blocks in New York are not your average Chancery Lane to Fetter Lane distance. Mastering the penguin gait accompanied by a horseshoe clutter of our clits we pushed our bikes. A year later we reached an abandoned house with no signs of any retail ever present at such premises.
Giving the Google another chance, we carried onto the next shop which again was apparently just a couple of thousand-mile-long blocks down the road. We pilgrimaged. Just to find another squat looking piece of rubbish. At this stage we mutually agreed that Google map sucked. Will was now rolling on his mental rim. Didn’t take me too long, but dearly roaming, to find out that bikes go free on the subway and we could just train it home. We did. We trained it for 2 hours with more walking and numerous number of changes, getting lost, going wrong directions then returning, past Jerusalem and Russia , where we even had to pit-stop for coffee & vape. Hail to Dunkin Donuts.
When we rescued ourselves to home Mat was all chefy-chefy, cooking spaghetti Bolognese for the Pedlas fam.
The bolognese was absolutely divine and exactly what dr prescribed at such hard times of holidaying. Will, though, on discovering mushrooms in the bolognese was done with NY. Who knew ( I did! ) he doesn’t eat slimy things which include slugs and mushrooms.
So you get the picture. Then the rest followed: Will broke his phone, I accidentally went to MOMA instead of Metropolitan, I went again relentless – it was closed that day, our yacht excursion we booked was cancelled, we were turned down from a ferry trip to Governors Island and everything was mercilessly expensive. To add to this list: Cats & dogs pissed on us all the time, though I really love animals…the weather was miserable most of the days.
I did however go out on my own to check out the bridges were still hanging and sniffing about the parks before the hay-fever could have my guts.
Interesting that the area of Red Hook in Brooklyn is named for the red clay soil and the point of land projecting into the Upper New York Bay. The village was settled by Dutch colonists of New Amsterdam in 1636, and named Roode Hoek. In Dutch “Hoek” means “point” or “corner” and not the English hook (i.e., not something curved or bent). The actual “hoek” of Red Hook was a point on an island that stuck out into Upper New York Bay at today’s Dikeman Street west of Ferris Street.
The day of Red Hook Crit Brooklyn was one of the not many glorious day during our stay; full of excitement and genuinely great fun.
It was the ninth consecutive race of fixed gear breakless cycling in the port area of Brooklyn, which also is a first out of four Red Hook series this year.
Now a legendary race which any self-respectful track rider would aspire to compete in. It’s serious and at the same time it’s not. It is exactly what it is – raised from the streets. Like nine years ago when it started at the very same Brooklyn docks on David Trimble’s 26th birthday bash. I imagine pissed and stoned to mushes, racing like maniacs along the desolate streets into dark vastness with no viewers but a close knit of friends meekly cheering on. Worth noticing that it was a girl, Kacey Manderfield, who snatched the first place on that very first illegal race. The same year Kacey won a national track championship and followed on to become a professional rider. These days Red Hook Crit’ers are much more prudential to avoid such a faux pas, and in a bid to salvage men’s dignity- ladies are kept in a separate posse.
In a couple of years Red Hook Crit exploded into a must-do international series, hosted in Brooklyn, Milan, Barcelona and now London, attracting reputable brands and their offspring teams: Cinelli’s, Specialized, Aventon’s etc. Pretty much any track bike specialists would want their bike rocked at these events.
What’s unique about this event is that it secured itself a reputation of a stepping stone for those who feel like a challenge against the pros. No race license nor qualifications needed. You just put your name down, pay the bill, helmet on, and off you go. The women side of RHC took a little longer to take off. Despite that it is steadily growing from year on year, still there isn’t enough ladies riders to rack up more than one qualification group. As all women go through into the main race the sole purpose of having the heats is to establish the order of the riders for the main race. There is also a prize for the fastest lap for those with particularly itchy feet. But most importantly is to wear the bitches out. Sweat, blood and tears is a prerequisite of a successful event.
On the contrast, guys’ heats is a pure battlefield. The number of qualifying groups come up to six these days, where they race against themselves trying to fix a good speed record and hoping to secure a place in the factual race or if less lucky in the Last Man standing.
The circuit was changed this year, or rather extended. A new stretch with a full-on hairpin was added to the course. This obviously added to the length of the track, upgrading the technicality to the next level of bike handling. Another substantial change is that no more than two people from the same team could be assigned per qualifying group. This implementation has excitingly diversified the race. No more schools of Cinellis or Fifth Floors paddling along like some synchronised fish. The strategies have been annihilated allowing for smaller teams and unaffiliated riders to sprint themselves out into the wild. Straight away this change has resulted in many pro-riders suddenly listed in Last Man Standing, facing another 18 laps or so of hammering to the top 10, after which they can peacefully expire in the final race…
When we arrived, people were heading mostly in- some out, of the track, and qualifications were underway. The team area, registration and press lounge were all located in a pavilion. Away from the hustle and bustle of the common mortals, which we did not have a privilege of in Milan nor London. In the latter they did attempt to put some kind of a marshall dude who was supposed to be checking the wrist bands, but half way through he vanished, probably in favour of a pint of beer and gingerly cheering on girls in lycra.
In regard to the safety, ever since our best-ever track pump has been borrowed unreturned at London’s Calling event, I always feel a bit nervous that some freak may enter our team area, steal Will’s sulphur smelling socks and strategically place them around the track for an extra encouragement.
Both main races – women and men- had some spectacular crashes, and men’s particularly witnessed an unprecedented stalling of a motorbike just in front of the start/finish line, resulting in an instant and nasty pile up of riders. Bodies and metal flying about the place and crashing into each other. At some point there were not enough of ambulances to hospitalise the injured.
We didn’t witness this as we were nursing Brooke after she has been taken out by another rider and crashed. As we were congregated in the pavilion discussing Brooke’s formidable attack at the front of the women’s pack, the men’s race was already started.
Suddenly, I saw was a queue of wounded riders, limping and hanging from their buddies, escorted into the team area, one after another, after another. It looked ominous and it should have been just a beginning of the mens race. Then I heard ambulances taking off and later at home we saw the footage. I would imagine many guys would have changed their minds about not getting into the final race….The did restart the race but we left by then, in much need of rest and concerned about Brooke’s arm injury.
Evidently, an investigation followed. Either by the official bodies or perhaps by the Trimble himself. The post-race inspection of the video footage has revealed infringements in both gender categories resulting in penalties and may be even disqualifications.
It’s a nasty lesson to learn for Trimble, but I believe this would fortify his thoroughness for the riders to comply with rules as well as health and safety checks and other essential elements of what makes a reputable race. It’s a shame this happened but the Red Hook Crit is now going to be only better.
Without going too much into the sport commentary, as I am crap in these things I offer you a copy from Red Hook Crit site of who did what and how well, and you can also read their own write-up that sums up it all if you wish to find out more.
Colin Strickland (US)
Ivan Ravaioli (IT)
Aldo Ilesic (SO)
Daniele Callegarin (IT)
Daniel Holloway (US)
Olivier Leroy (FR)
Alec Briggs (UK)
Tristan Uhl (US)
Emanuele Poli (IT)
Andrea Vassallo (IT)
1st lap (breakfast) prime: Mario Paz Duque
Halfway (dinner) prime: Colin Strickland
Fastest Qualifying Lap: Addison Zawada – 1:25.741
Rockstar Games Top Antagonist: Colin Strickland
Ainara Elbusto Arteaga (ES)
Ash Duban (US)
Vittoria Reati (IT)
Irene Usabiaga (ES)
Keira McVitty (UK)
Johanna Jahnke (DE)
Veronika Volok (US)
Jo Celso (US)
Sammi Runnels (US)
Corinne Price (UK)
1st Lap (breakfast) prime: Ainara Elbusto Arteaga
Halfway (dinner) prime: Ainara Elbusto Arteaga
Fastest Qualifying Lap: Ashley Faye – 1:31.576
Rockstar Games Top Antagonist: Kiera McVitty