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Racing Track Bikes in The Mission and Red Hook

To race in the final of the Red Hook Crit Brooklyn, under lights and in front of 10,000 of the most diverse cycling fans has been our aim for the last couple of years.  After failing to qualify in 2016 we set the goal to be there on the main stage next time round.   

We had heard great things about the Mission Crit in San Francisco and as it runs the weekend before Red Hook Crit it made perfect sense to fly in a week early and be involved.

San Francisco has a unique atmosphere.  A mix of Sydney's light and Melbourne's bikes and coffee. The days leading up to the race had been clear and the Mission District is full of food, coffee, books and bikes.

The boys rolled down to the course at midday to set up and get on the rollers.  The course was a perfect combination of a technical hair pin, a short climb with the down hill leading into long straights and fast corners designed to bring out the pure speed of the riders. The course looped back and forth on itself so that the biggest part of the crowd could stand with the hairpin on one side of them and the downhill sweep on the other making for great watching.

One thing that strikes you about American cycling fans is that they want all the riders to do well. The cheers for the guys at the back of the field and struggling to stay ahead of the motor bike were every bit as raucous as that for the leading bunch of 4. 

Automatic qualification for the final was a matter of riding a Hot Lap with the top 60 fastest times going straight through.  Groups of riders from each heat would work together on their hot laps. The plan was to let the field move well ahead in the first few laps giving the boys clear space to work with. All four worked to put in 2 solid efforts and waited on the results to be posted.  

After a lot of anxiety leading up to the whole trip there were smiles all round as each of our riders qualified to move straight through into the final. Hal qualified 13th fastest, Harry 18th, Ray, 30th and Ferg booked 59th spot on the grid.  

At one point in the afternoon the weather closed in and what had been an overcast and so far dry day threatened to deteriorate. Harry ran into an old guy who might have seen better days and he assured Harry that it would all blow over. It's not clear if the old guy was referring to the weather but either way the skies cleared and under a golden sunset the cargo bike race and the women's final got a very happy crowd ready for the men's event.  

The final itself was dramatic and without any significant accidents. The pace was almost 10% higher than the qualifiers right from the start and after a 4 man breakaway got going it became a battle to stay ahead of them on the 1.2km course.

Hal finished up in 15th place, Harry 18th, Ray 30th and Ferg in 51st. 

Speaking with the boys after the final they all identified parts of their ride that they would change if they had another chance. The consistent theme was that they should not have held anything in reserve for fear of blowing up. The race is essentially a 28 lap shoot out ridden mostly in a long snaking single file. Other than the top riders, there is no 'sitting in' like you find regularly in road criterium. The top riders start at the front and for everyone else it's a race to survive. Hopefully these would be good lessons for RHC. 

Having been to both RHC and Mission Crit they have very different vibes. San Francisco was welcoming, enthusiastic and just a great place to race a bike and we have already booked in our next visit in 2018

 

  

  

  Above photo by CycleFeed

 

  Above photo by _Eazie_

   

  Above photo by CycleFeed

 

Above photo by _Eazie_

  

  

Above photo by Silvia Galliani

 

Flying into NYC we were greeted by cold and wet conditions in complete contrast to the west coast and as much as we had enjoyed the results in San Francisco there is something about NYC that says all of that needed to be put aside and to focus on the next event.

For Ray and Hal this was the second time racing RHC but for for Harry and Ferg it was their first. There were 5 qualifying heats and Hal and Harry raced in qualifying heat 2 with the first 18 of 60 riders going through to the final. Hal rode well and placed 11th which was a significant improvement on last year.

Harry cut his way through the field from a long way back on the grid to get on the back of the leading bunch within 4 laps. Having done all the hard work and riding comfortably in the top 20 riders he clipped a pedal in the second hairpin and came down, his run effectively over.

Harry is a very upbeat person and while he is sore and still feeling the effects of the fall, I am sure the thought of what might have been is what's hurting the most - expect to see Harry focussed on 2018.

Ray and Ferg raced in the final heat and almost immediately Ray established himself in the leading 15 riders. Ferg, who had started well back in the grid, worked quickly to move up and sat mid-field for most of the race. As the speed and heat began to take their toll he wasn't able to bridge the gap to the leading bunch. In the end he pushed to make the final 30 and qualify for the Last Chance Race but missed it by just 2 spots.

A mid pack finish on your first effort is no small thing and Ferg handled the course like an experienced rider.

Ray rode confidently and his season of racing track and crits in Melbourne paid off in spades and he came over the line a comfortable 7th, booking his spot on the starting grid for the final. I'm not sure who was happier, Hal or Ray. This was 2 years in the making and best bit was still to come.

If you have seen the footage online you'll know the final is held at night under lights with around 10,000 New Yorkers cheering on the riders, DJ's, food vans, marching bands and literally thousands of the coolest track bikes parked up everywhere - and that's before the race starts.

The start line is a media scrum with 100 riders crammed into a very narrow start finish line. After a neutral lap the riders take their positions in the grid and from a standing start take the starters gun, clip in and put the pedal to the metal.

There are championship points up for grabs in the first 5 laps so the idea of 'settling in' is not going to happen. The sight of 100 riders at full speed on the first lap is powerful and to see Ray and Hal in there mixing it with so many good riders was great.

Hal and Ray held on mid-pack for just over half the race before being lapped by the lead breakaway. Hal had crashed and remounted cx style while Ray (as is his way) stayed out of trouble but in the end, the pace proved too hot. 

The final results were that Hal finished 68th and Ray 73rd out of 300 hopefuls and 100 starters in the final.

Thanks to those close to us for so much support and thanks to everyone we met. We are already booking our trip for 2018.

And to Red Hook Crit and Mission Crit - thanks for putting on such outstanding events and giving us the opportunity to be a part of it all.

We had a blast!  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above photo by Silvia Galliani

 

 

   

   

 

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