Photography and Video with Greg Addo
Covering Red Hook Crit 11 - Brooklyn
Each year hundreds of cyclists from around the world make their annual pilgrimage to Brooklyn for the Red Hook Crit. It's a week of festivities that usually start days before the final event like alley cats, bicycle store parties, and concerts leading up to the weekend. One can easily bump into various European teams riding around New York City and being tourists. The first Red Hook Crit course was set up for the founder, David Trimble's, birthday, and that celebratory attitude of RHC continues over a decade later.
It was a misty drive over the Brooklyn bridge at 8am heading to the Bay Ridge to meet Bruno and his team. Aside being the national road champion of Canada, Bruno runs his combination cafe/bike shop, Velo Cartel which his team is named after. His focus right now is to grow track and fixie culture in Canada. With that vision they made to trip all the way from Quebec Friday, the night before the race day. They had just come back from their coffee run by the time we rolled in. After a quick introduction to the team everyone headed to the venue for the first qualifying session scheduled for 11am.
On the race day the warm up sessions start at 10am. By 11:15am the first heat of qualifications had begun, fans had started to line up around the course, vendors were selling RHC merchandise, food trucks already serving customers -- and some racers were already being carried out on stretchers. The Red Hook Crit is made up of four qualifying heats, four last chance races, and at the end of the night, the final. This format allows riders to have a multiple opportunities if anything unfortunate happens during their qualifying round. This year's course was brand new and faster than previous years, so it really pushed the riders to be smoother pedaling into and through the turns.
The first session is always an eye opener at Red Hook. "Wow that…that first turn…We started super hard and everybody braked. I'm not used to braking like that and one guy crashed in front of me." That was all our rider, Bruno, could say about his first qualifying race. Within five minutes he was back on the rollers to cool down before his last chance race.
Unfortunately, one of the teammates, Kevin, crashed while riding within the top twenty. A sprained ankle meant that he was going to limp all day and had to opt out of the last chance race. This is the norm here at RHC. Even the race favorites can easily get disqualified due to a mechanical or a crash that wasn't caused by him/her. Trevor and _________(other teammate) had their own mishaps in their sessions and had to wait for their last chance races.
Bruno was clearly impressed with the talent at the race. He was comparing track cycling to an art form that is different than road cycling. His words really highlighted the depth of cycling as a sport: "Being powerful on a road bike doesn't necessarily mean that you can be good at every type of cycling event." A combination of power, riding smooth, and perhaps most importantly, fearlessness, is needed to be successful here.
This weekend proved that cycling is an adventure deeper than one can see and is full of surprises. And that is precisely why Velo Cartel made the trip down to Brooklyn. Sometimes plans don't work out, but fortunately at RHC, not making it to the main event usually means that the party starts earlier.
You can read a million articles about the Red Hook Crit, but none of them capture the energy and excitement of just being there. Spending the day will solidify your love for the event. It's fascinating to watch as world class athletes race side by side with local messengers and social media celebs. For a cyclist this event is a must-go, so make sure to plan for it for next year.
As I was wrapping up this post, an email from Bruno popped up in my inbox. He said that he had just gotten back from training on his track bike. I have a feeling that Bruno and Velo Cartel will be back next year.