Video Red Hook Crit: Thrills and Spills as London hosts a round of the World Fixed Gear Criterium
July 17th, 2015
July 17th, 2015
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"This is outrageous!" barked an unwilling female spectator as the women's Red Hook Crit final screamed at speeds approaching 40km/h around the high-risk first bend.
The lady, livid as security guards refused to allow her and her husband to cross the narrow track as dusk descended on London, had to make do instead with watching some of the most thrilling bike racing England’s capital has ever hosted.
Earlier a mangled bike frame, snapped in half during a men's qualifier after one rider clipped a barrier and ended up back-first, upside down in a tree amid a sickening pile up, was a sign of the Red Hook Crit’s intensity as the eight-year-old event came to London for the first time.
Damn right it was outrageous. Cycling fans may never have seen anything like it. Three years on from the 2012 Olympic fervour at the velodrome (a few miles due north, the other side of the river) and raw, adrenaline-fuelled, cycle racing had well and truly returned.
Fortunately there were no more horrifying thuds of bike and body against railings and in the end 2014 Red Hook Crit series winner Ainara Elbusto Arteaga of Spain prevailed in a six-woman breakaway to claim the first honours of the day.
While there was one minor crash in the women's final, the men's parting shot was a clean race then bunch sprint for the line with Puerto Rico’s William Guzman emerging victorious.
The crowds didn't half know about it either, Guzman ignoring tannoy instructions to keep his "Hands. On. The. Bar!" and celebrating in style with a roar and clenched fists.
But in truth the winners of the day on a much larger scale were members of the swarming fixed gear community.
Some unavoidable misfortune aside, which led to some unaware visitors clambering off the Emirates Air Line cable car terminal inside the circuit and being left with nowhere to go bar an ice cream stall or observe riders warming up, most people present smiled and roared their delight in the direction of the track to create a real racing cauldron.
“The Emirates Air Line logistical challenges were something we were well aware was going to be a challenge,” said director David Trimble.
“There was no way to communicate this to every possible rider in advance of the weekend. There perhaps could have been better communication on the other end of the car but it would have been unlikely to deter many people from riding it.
“In the end the only solution was to ask people to be patient and wait for controlled course crossings. A pedestrian bridge was explored but the cost, permit requirements, and installation time made it unfeasible.
“While the cable car likely had a few annoyed customers the amount of people we brought to the area surely made the positives outweigh the negatives. If you do anything out of the ordinary people will complain. It's human nature.”
Quite. After all, fixed gear riders and aficionados mingled giddily all day, and, more importantly, they had showcased the best of their world to a new, appreciative and respectful audience.
In fact the measure of the Red Hook Crit’s success and perhaps widening global appeal became apparent under the Saturday night sky after a pulsating climax to a long day in the scorching sun: our unwilling spectator and her husband were seen blending in at the after party aside the moonlit Thames. Hey, they were both smiling now.
The four-leg Red Hook Crit series, having kicked off 2015 in its birthplace in New York, makes further visits to Barcelona (September 5) and Milan (October 10) to round off the year.
But for diehard fans, converts and perhaps even the sceptics, as we saw for ourselves, its next instalment in London can’t come soon enough.
Words by Tom Pilcher, photos courtesy of Williams-Photo. Visit Red Hook Crit for more information on this unique World fixed-gear race.