Red Hook Crit returned to London for the second round in the 2017 championship series. The well-received new qualification format introduced in Brooklyn earlier this year meant visitors at the Greenwich Peninsula saw racing (as opposed to timed qualifying) from the get-go through 5 qualifying heats.
To Be Determined's Erwin Kersten was on hand to race in his second RHC event - his recap of a challenging day at the races follows below:
Patrick Torpey and I lined-up for the Team earlier this year in Brooklyn, whereas this weekend marked TBD’s first international Red Hook Crit (RHC) starting spot. Given I purchased my track bike only 5 weeks before the Brooklyn race, I was happy to get through qualifying and making it into the “last chance race”. If it hadn’t been for my crash at last week’s Prospect Park’s Castelli Cup, I might have aimed higher in London.
The absence of Brooklyn’s famous hairpin means the course is drastically faster, despite it running in reverse compared to last year to get rid of a blind apex issue. I found the surface to be more challenging. Big chunks of the course are effectively a building site, meaning a number of surface changes across the lap.
Race day started off well: dry, with the occasional ray of sunshine. Minutes after open practice had commenced at noon however, the first rain of the day gave all riders a sneak-peak at the conditions. Personally, I noticed that my Schwalbe1 25’s didn’t have the grip I was hoping for – and that was without carrying much speed. A sign of things to come.
The rain didn’t stop there, and carried on through for most of the day, varying from mild to torrential. For a race series with a notorious reputation at the best of times, this took plenty of victims across all heats. Having said that, every Heat started off at a very sensible speed, with all riders trying to “find their feet” in the wet. So too started my heat (3), and after the first couple of laps I found myself with one other rider in-between the front group of about 15, and the bunch behind. I’ll admit I wasn’t feeling confident; partly due to last week’s bruising, partly due to my tires. Those tires slipped away from me in corner 1 with 5 laps to go, ending my hopes of a cheeky shot at the final.
To my surprise, they placed me in the ‘last chance race’ after all (a combination of how many racers DNF their heats and my position in the field when I crashed) meaning I still finished 22nd out of 60. Fresh from medical assistance to clean up some (re-opened) wounds on my knee, I took the opportunity to kill the demon called corner 1, with even less air in my tires this time. Word on the street was people qualified with less than 50psi. Sums it up nicely.
Raphaele Lemieux (‘Team iBike’) took the win in the Women’s Final later that evening, beating favorite and 2016 winner Dani King. King, former world track champion and Olympic gold medalist, took to Twitter saying “Racing @Redhookcrit in the dry is one thing...in pouring rain is another! Braver girls than me. Hope everyone who crashed is ok!”. In the Men’s Final, Filippo Fortin (‘Team Bahumer’) held off ‘Team Intelligentsia Racing’ and ‘Specialized / Rocket Espresso’, who had Colin Strickland and local favorite Alec Briggs finish in 3rd and 4th respectively.
Thanks to Trimble Racing for putting on such an amazing event as always, despite the rain. I believe RHC might one day be the most popular event in the world of cycling given its atmosphere, simplicity and spectator-friendly setup. For me though, it’s back to gears and brakes for a while.