Almost a year ago now, I hopped on a plane destined for a bike race I really knew nothing about. Hal had been in New York the previous year and when he returned he decided that we would race the Red Hook Crit.
I was still mid-way through my final year at school and had to check the dates to make sure I was even old enough to race. I was, just, and to be honest I wasn’t a particularly fit cyclist but once school was finished Hal and I started putting in more effort, racing more track, racing more crits and even holding our own Fixed Wheel Crit in preparation.
Once we got to New York we ran into our first problem, we had arrived but our bikes hadn’t. It took close to two days and about 50 hollow promises from the airport services to get our bikes back but finally we were ready and a few fantastic rides around New York later it was race day.
We got the race early, walking the course multiple times, making estimates and predictions about cornering speeds, all of which turned out to be incredibly inaccurate and misinformed.
With the Statue of Liberty in the distance we started warming up for our qualifying session, both blindly optimistic. Our 15 minute qualifying effort couldn’t have started worse. Hal sprinted into the first hairpin with me on his wheel, struggled to slow down, locking up his back wheel, just making it around while I just continued on straight, off the course and just missing the hay bales. It sounds stupid but it was the first time we had ever gone around a hairpin on track bikes, let alone at race pace.
Hal went on to finish his lap, and with 5 minutes left we joined back up, with Hal leading me out for my fastest lap time. The remaining qualifying groups had their run and at the end we had both missed out on the final but made the last chance qualifier. While I missed out by a fair margin, Hal only missed out by a half second.
The last chance went just about as well as qualifying, I started middle to back in the grid, locking handlebars with my neighbour on the grid, pushing me even further back in the bunch. Hal started fairly well, staying the main bunch for a fair chunk of the race but we both missed a place in the final.
Looking back the whole experience was funny. Funny how close Hal actually got to the main race, funny how incredibly under-trained I was, funny that I was the youngest person to compete, I think, and funny just how oblivious I was to the race standard.
At the end of the day riding and racing bikes should be fun. This time around Harry and Fergus are coming with Hal and me to race and when looking back on it I still want it to seem funny, but I really hope it’s funny for some different reasons.