You don’t always need an internal combustion engine to channel the Flat-Out spirit. Nowhere embodied that better than the latest round of the Red Hook Crit series, which stopped off last weekend in the ol’ smoke, London.
There aren’t too many rules at each Red Hook meet. Seasoned international pros on their carbon fibre dream machines (including some with Grand Tour starts under their belts) mix it up with plucky amateur racers in a number of short, sharp races around a city-based street circuit.
You don’t need a formal bike licence. You just need a bag full of courage, some skin tight lycra, oh, and a fixed-gear whip with no brakes. Yep, the Red Hook Crit series is road racing with track bikes, and it’s just as crazy as that sentence sounds.
London marked the second of four 2017 stopovers (the first coming in the concept’s birthplace, Brooklyn back in April) so it seemed rude not to go and see what all the fuss was about.
If you’re expecting a highly-polished, corporate affair, prepare to be disappointed. The Tour de France, this ain’t. You won’t see Team Sky’s ‘death star’ tour bus in the paddock.
Instead, Red Hook is refreshingly down to earth. Even the top teams – sponsored by cycling colossuses like Specialized – are based out of spindly awnings, barely able to keep out the pounding British rain.
The air is thick with the smell of beer, stale sweat and Deep Heat, and the action out on the 950m London circuit is as frenetic as the pumping tunes back in the paddock.
After starting with some heat races in the morning (giving the competitors a thorough drenching), the finals got underway as the sun started to set and the Canary Wharf backdrop began to illuminate.
Despite the inclement British ‘summer’ weather earlier in the day, the crowds were two or three deep come the men’s final, vociferously cheering on hometown heroes like Specialized/Rocket Espresso’s Alec Briggs.
While the whole atmosphere may be a bit more relaxed than most bike races, the competition itself was no less fierce. On the slick surface of the Greenwich peninsular, more than a few riders tasted tarmac, the racing becoming ever more cut-and-thrust as the laps counted down.
In the end, the women’s race saw home favourite and last year’s London victor, Dani King (sound familiar, she’s an Olympic gold medallist) marked heavily and pushed down to fifth as Raphaele Lemieux take the spoils.
After a red-flag hiatus in the middle (we told you Red Hook was for the brave), the men’s race was won by Italian, Filippo Fortin, with countryman, Davide Vigano second and Briggs rounding out the podium.
The 2017 Red Hook Crit series continues on the 2 September with a vist to Barcelona. Fancy heading along, you can get all the detail here.