In 2009, I crashed a couple times in the rain on a notorious descent in the Bay Area. To this day I have a mental block about cornering in wet conditions. This January, at Cyclocross Nationals, Evan Murphy (NYC Velo p/b The Cannibal) gave me a breakdown of how to keep racing positive. Evan explained that even when dropped from a road race he’s still pumped to be riding the course, or even though we’re in Colorado racing CX Nationals semi-serious, we’re still having a blast shredding the course.
Anyway, Mike of MASH SF flew our team to the entire RHC series last year. We’ve had awesome support for an awesome team. But, while we were proud to podium every race in Brooklyn, we’ve never won. Having never won has personally pressured me. Along with the growing level of media coverage that surrounds the event. Weather predictions—cold, wind, rain—a week before the event really made it hard to think positively. Furthermore, add brakeless track bikes, an overly aggressive field, and a course with tough corners and I was really fearing injury and the possibility of ruining this entire race season. Frankly, I didn’t really want to start but felt immense pressure not only to do so, but to perform.
250 racers were attempting to qualify for 80 positions in the main race with their fastest timed lap, which also sets the start grid. With no warm up, I went with a large group on the first lap of our group’s qualifying heat. I stayed at the back and went about 50%. This effort put me eighth on the grid. This was quickly bumped down to 22nd. A couple laps later, four of us went all-out on another lap. We had it dialed and I went so hard I expected to be top five, but the wind had picked up so much that the new lap times didn’t even match my first effort. At this point I was taxed, fighting off vomit and the cold, so I packed it in to go warm up inside before the main race.
Because of the inclement weather, the men’s race was moved ahead a few hours and shortened to under 30 minutes, while the women’s race was neutralized due to an ambulance on course after a serious crash. I was disappointed that I was starting third row, because if something happened in the beginning of the race (a crash, field split, missed break, or a mental freakout while navigating the crazed wet pack) I would have let the team down. Luckily, I quickly made it up to the top eight. Kyle and I put in some attacks in the middle of the race, but no one came across, so they were chased back. I was stoked to win the mid-race prime and then we were in the last few laps of the race.
Two riders were in a breakaway and Neil Bezdek was sitting second wheel in the chase. He didn’t let anyone rotate through or rotate off. The breakaway didn’t have much of a gap, though it was all they needed. Going into the bell lap, Kyle got on the front and drilled it. I was sitting third wheel and, as we planned, I attacked into a sheltered straight to get a gap before heading into the final “windy” straight-hairpin-straight. Our team didn’t want to sprint against Neil, Evan, or Mario, so we wanted to go early. Coming into the windy section, I realized that the wind had died down. I kept going 100% but got swarmed at the hairpin, effectively leading out the sprint. On my way to the line, I got passed by four and, with two racers off the front, I took seventh. Far from the podium and far from first.
At “team brunch,” which my sister hosted the following morning, I realized that this RHC weekend was the best yet. It is easy to get distracted by stressing over performance and results, overlooking the original goal of the Red Hook series. It is a blast to go out there and crush it with teammates and local and international racers that this series has provided me the opportunity to meet.
A week has passed since the first Red Hook event of the season, so we have had a little time to dry out bikes and cameras, and soak up some sun back in California. It is safe to say that Red Hook was really fun—and fucked. With several years of great-to-decent weather at the events, you forget how weather can change everything. With spirits kept high by the athletes, reminding each other they were racing because it’s fun, riders headed out to race brakeless track bikes, elbow-to-elbow, at night, in the pouring rain. Enclosed are some moments captured on March 29th, 2014 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Chas came to Red Hook straight from Colombia, where The Lucas Show rode the Darién Gap from Panama to Colombia, in the jungle, then raced an alley cat. His stomach was turning during qualifiers, but he still put in a top 10 qualifying time out of 200 racers.
We are so happy to see such a rad field of women out pushing what is next for track bikes. Super inspiring for everyone to take in this level of talent.
Like all Red Hook events, there’s some rubber side up. This sweeping left caught a good number of racers. The Ass Savers hay bales may have been the marketing win of this event.
Wet, painted lines, flooded potholes and storm drains, and a solid sheet of rain from start to finish made this Red Hook one for the books.
These two kids tried to form one adult to get into the after-party. Dan, you need a longer Shimano poncho to pull this off.
The weather was definitely a factor for the spectators. The groups that did form under cover gave it their all to hype the field each lap.
With a few expected delays, the main field was sent out on a shortened race. Cutting the event to 15 laps from 24 changed how these types of events can play out. No time to drop fatiguing racers and a short window to stack up attacks.
Three wide in the wet corners.
Once you’re wet, you’re not going to get any wetter. The guys loved racing in these conditions. As the team support, my number one task is to listen to the athletes. Before we got on a plane, I made it clear to the team, they had no obligation to race. It is, and will always be a choice. Just because you get on a flight does not add any additional pressure. Race if you are feeling it. On this night, on these brakeless bikes, the guys had their head in the game and wanted to mix it up.
Walton and Kyle worked up front, attacking and testing the field early.
Chas’s health got the best of him in the main race so he pulled off, always with a smile.
Walton was able to get a break to stick for a few laps, earning one of the primes. Red Hook offers up beautiful baskets of ingredients, knowing these athletes love quality food.
Kyle chasing down the second break, which ended up surviving. The field would nearly catch the two by the line, creating a fun finish.
The rain did not let up for the evening, securing its spot as one of New York’s most spirit-crushing winters on record. We are happy to have had the chance to play in it for the weekend and get back on a plane to the Bay, where it has been endless summer for a nice run.
We are looking forward to Barcelona and another opportunity to race with friends, doing what these guys love. Here is to 2014 and all it brings!
Dan Chabanov knows a thing or two about the Red Hook Criterium. With the largest solo break to ever stick in modern times, the modern field studies his run at these events. He also carries a camera, and looks sharp in a tie and poncho. Check his RHC photos HERE and follow him for advice as you cat up.
It was a little more than 36 hours, more like 42. Either way, our trip to NYC for RHC was short. I can’t really say it was short and sweet, so it’ll just be short. It was rainy and cold, the race was crazy (respect to ALL racers, volunteers, fans, anyone else who was out there on Saturday). We came, we raced, we partied, we came home. I love traveling with this team and feel privileged to be a part of something this big
This is a 36 exp Fuji 200 roll I bought in Bogota last Friday. It starts in JFK and ends sometime on Saturday night/Sunday morning. With all the cameras at the event this year I thought we would try something a little different, all photos are in chronological order.