Mission Crit 2018 brings back a range of sentiments, (for me, my best race day ever) and so much so that we had booked to be back this year. With Covid-19 taking a stronghold on international travel, and our trip inevitably cancelled, it gave us a chance to slow down, and reflect on our previous trips and races in the US.
For those who don't know me, I'm Fergus and I work at HBC as a graphic designer working with Hal, James and Ray in the creation of content and garments. I went to school with Ray, and once finishing school took up cycling about the same time HBC started. At this time I regularly came along to track to take photos or to indulge in a few track snacks and after a few weeks, Hal asked me when I'd be racing? Racing is not something I had thought much of, but now found myself shaving my legs and buying a race license.
In 2017, I went to the US for the first time with HBC to race Mission Crit and the Red Hook Crit. I was incredibly underprepared for both after only racing a handful of road crits and truthfully had no right in lining up for two of the biggest track bike crits in the world but I'm very grateful for the experience and motivation this provided for the following year.
Following on from this first trip, we all stepped up the training for the next 12 months. Training 6-7 days a week including watt bike sessions, strength and conditioning in the gym, track every week as well as racing road crits. We all saw a dramatic increase in skill as well as fitness level and felt good going onto our second trip to the US for Mission Crit and The Red Hook Crit.
At Mission Crit in 2018 the progression from qualification to the final was, 4 heats of 100 riders, 15 laps with the top 25 making it through to the final. Due to making the final the year previous and some very generous seeding from James Grady at Mission Crit, Ray and I were seeded 5th and 6th respectively placing us on the front row of the grid. Due to the nature of fixed gear racing, grid position is very important as moving up through the group is very difficult and the further back you are the higher your chance of being caught behind an inevitable crash. With some big k's in the bank, a good starting position and fresh speedplay pedals to allow for a quick clip in. The stars were aligned for a good race.
Ray nailed his clip in and immediately took the lead into the first corner with a generous 10 bike lengths. Ray quickly realised there was no point in his very early accidental attack and let us catch up. Thanks to our starting position both Ray and I were now safely in the top 10 riders but very much had to stay on the ball due to the pace ramping up and the ever-present risk of a crash. We were lucky to miss a few crashes due to our high positioning and coming into the last 3 laps we both knew we were safely through due to the distancing between us and the next bunch so we looked to better our position. In the back straight I took the opportunity to attack and make up a few places and to my surprise dropped Ray (not something I do often) and came across the line in 11th surrounded by riders who were a lot better than me. After all the training it was great to see some results. Onto the final.
Held at night under minimal light, the final was a buzz of excitement and plenty of nerves. Due to a good qualifying, I had a reasonable position on the grid, I just had to hold position and take opportunities and chances when they came. The race started quickly with a first lap prime which also culminated in a big crash halfway through the first lap. We all missed the crash but were caught in the split of groups and found ourselves chasing for the rest of the race.
Ultimately, Mission Crit was the best race day I've ever had and I'm beyond grateful I had the opportunity to race overseas with my mates and experience some of the fastest track bike racing in the world. I really hope one day when restrictions are lifted that we can go back and race again in the US and do this all again.