Fearless Athletes Defy the Elements at Red Hook Crit No. 7
The Red Hook Crit's mission to race in rain, hail or shine was put to the test this past Saturday as bone-chilling squalls flooded the course for the 7th Annual Red Hook Crit at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. It didn't dampen the rider's enthusiasm though, and a committed crew of spectators lined the barriers to see what was ultimately one of the most exciting and beautiful Red Hook Crit races in years. The Red Hook Crit's expansion to an international series reaped rewards as two fresh international faces made the podium for the first time in the men's division, while the women’s field tested their mettle against extreme conditions during their inaugural race.
Men’s qualifying session. Photo Cred: Meg McMahon
Early in the afternoon, threatening weather forecasts prompted race organizer, Dave Trimble to move both the men's and women's races to an earlier start in an attempt to avoid the worst of the impending rain. Meanwhile, supporters mingled with the racers in the terminal as the qualifiers took place in preparation for the main event's kick-off at 5:30.
A group of 31 fearless women braved the worst of the day's rain while dealing with fading light. The race started cautiously, but it wasn't too long before the pace heated up and the pack broke up into several smaller groups. A lead group of about 10 riders started to gap the rest of the field. This group contained most of the pre-race favorites, including two members of the Rockstar Games women's team, Shane Ferro and Anna Zivarts.
Early in the women’s race Photo Cred: Meg McMahon
With 5 laps to go, a serious crash occurred at the chicane as Team Rockstar's Shane Ferro crashed out while trying to avoid a lapped rider. Race directors immediately stopped the race, restarting 10 minutes later to complete the final three laps. The break gave everyone a chance to regroup and rest a little, but also time to reflect on the tricky course conditions. The final laps saw some intense racing. Jo Celso, a San Diego native riding for the Wolfpack Hustle team took the win, breaking away at the end to take victory. Chicago's Liz So (Team Tativille) finished in second, 2.4 seconds back with Ash Duban (Haute Wheels) from Austin Texas rounding out the podium with a great third place finish. For a great profile of Jo Celso, head over to the Wolfpack Hustle site.
The men’s criterium begins. Photo Cred: Meg McMahon
As the downpour intensified for the start of the men’s race, the field of 85 riders who had made it through qualification had the additional challenge of racing at night. Last year's series winner Neil Bezdek was once again the hot favorite, setting down a blistering qualifying time to take pole position on the starting grid.
Powering through. Photo Cred: Wendy Wees
Despite the conditions, the race pace was furious from the start. There were several early attempts by riders to break away from the front to try and take advantage of the wet weather and San Francisco’s Kyle Murphy spent several laps attacking the leaders, but nothing stuck. Walton Brush escaped the pack long enough to win the mid-race prime at the end of the 7th lap. Then suddenly during lap 12, Frenchman, Thibaud Lhenry (Team In'bo) racing a bamboo-framed bike built by a friend, and Italian Alessandro Bruzza (Team Cinelli Chrome) broke away, managing to split the field fairly quickly with three laps to go.
On the final lap, the chasers managed to reduce the gap, but it was not enough. Lhenry punched after the final hairpin, out sprinting Bruzza to win by less than a second to take the victory. Moments later, series favorite Bezdek took the field sprint to snatch third place.
Thibaud Lhenry on his custom bamboo bike taking the win. Photo Cred: William Tam
Enduring the pounding rain, the Criteriums were followed by a men’s and women’s 5k. Congratulations to New Jersey native Lauren Penney for taking the women’s race and to Haile Memdesha for winning the men’s.
Runners prepare at the starting line. Photo Cred: Ramses Rivas
A special shout-out goes to everyone who came down to support the race despite the chilly conditions, especially the businesses of Red Hook who brought their delicious food and drink down to warm the bellies of everyone around the course and in the terminal. An extra thank you goes to the folks at the Gorilla Cheese truck, whose grilled cheese sandwiches were a big hit with the Rockstar crew.
Thanks again to all the sponsors - we look forward to seeing you again when the series picks back up in Barcelona in August, followed by the final race in October in Milan. Race fans can follow all the news on the series at redhookcrit.com and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. For more on the Brooklyn race, you can also check out Peloton Magazine's write-up here: http://pelotonmagazine.com/feedzone/frenchman-reigns-over-red-hook/.