Photo by Matt Reyes
Red Hook Recap: RHCNY2018by Veronika Volok Another year, another Red Hook Crit. Which means, HELLO BROOKLYN! One of my favorite things about racing the Red Hook Crit is reuniting with my super awesome and supportive team, East London Fixed. Now, for those of you who don’t know, these guys are based out of London (duh), with the exception of Johanna Jahnke in Germany and me in California. It’s been the greatest combo since pizza and beer and I’m so grateful these guys took us under their (British) wing. I arrive in Brooklyn first thing Thursday AM and quickly build up my track bike so we could unite and do laps at Prospect Park (10/10 would recommend). We were lookin’ pretty dang good in our new Biehler custom kits and freshly painted Quirk Cycles bikes. After we felt like we made our legs work, we went on an adventure to get pizza (because what else do you eat in NY?!) After many slices, we pressed pause and later would regroup in Manhattan for some Chrome pre-party action (YEAH BUDDY!) Matt Reyes (aka slumworm) took the team into the Manhattan streets to do fixie shit. What is fixie shit, you may ask? Well, basically you ride the streets on your fixie with no fucks to give as you dodge cars, traffic lights, and angry New Yorkers (“I’m walkin’ heere!”) I like to joke that Matt was a mama duck that let her little ducklings fly free because that is exactly what we did and it was rad. We rolled up to Chrome and there were already people spilling into the streets and the beer was halfway gone. If you have ever been to the Chrome pre-party at the SoHo store, you know that shit gets lit and the cops will come. This time the cops came early and shut things down by 7pm, and from where I’m from, that’s considered a compliment. (Shout out to Kelli Samuelson and the Chrome homies for making it happen!) Now, fast forward to Saturday, which is the reason we came, RACE DAY!
Photo by Jason HansenThe team arrived early at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal to pre-ride the course and prepare ourselves for what we were about to get ourselves into. This course was new but felt familiar (like an ex you dated again). Its sweeping quick turns and clockwise direction made it feel like it would be FAST, and it was. This would be my fifth Red Hook Crit in Brooklyn and my body was ready. I’ll be honest. I didn’t feel ready for the Women’s Qualifier Race. I get to Parc Ferme and all the rollers are taken. “Shit,” I thought to myself. I needed to warm up my legs and opted to use the spectator porta potty area to get the legs going and heart rate bumpin’. The Women’s Qualifier Race was sketchy. It was packed and riders were skidding and taking really bad lines through the turns. It was the first time in a long time where I felt scared and nervous, especially after seeing Juliett Elliot and Sammi Runnels crash in front of me. It was rough, and I finished 31st. I was pretty upset about my qualifying result because the top 30 women automatically go to the finals, and the rest do the Another Chance Race, and I was ONE position off. ONE! I had two hours to prep for the next race and made sure to warm up and eat. I talked to a few people who reminded me that I get to race again and that in the end it’s about having fun, right? Dylan Buffington reminded me that if Stefan Schafer could do it, anything is possible. Fuck yeah! Unfortunately, I am not Stefan Schafer. The Another Chance Race was fucking awesome. I started at the front and I felt so comfortable taking the turns and being at the front for most of the race. I knew I had to be careful about burning my matches, but I really wanted to win so I could get a good starting position for the Women’s final, AND I DID. That last lap I made it count and made my way to the front and kept in mind where I would attack. I gritted my teeth and sprinted as hard as I could after the final turn. I could hear the sudden crashes behind me, but I didn’t let that get in my head. JUST FUCKING GO, I told myself. I gritted my teeth harder and hoped no one would pass me the last few meters before the finish line. I heard my name on the speaker. I FUCKING DID IT. My teammate Johanna was also in the race and finished 4th, double fuck yeah! The stoke was high. The Women’s Final felt surreal. The start line was full of my friends, my competitors, and overall a bunch of strong, badass women. My nerves started to kick in but I felt ready, my body was ready. David Trimble does the countdown and as he says, GO, all you can hear is the sound of cleats trying to clip into pedals and a sea of women make their way to the front. The pace was fast and we were all either holding onto the wheel in front of us or making our way further up in the pack. I remember feeling confident and comfortable in the turns but kept getting outsprinted in the straightaway. I avoided a crash and tried to hang on to the wheel in front of me. At some point, I remember looking down at my Garmin and see the “low battery” indicator. As I looked up and the wheel I was following was gone. I lost the pack and I couldn’t catch up. I remember looking behind me and realized I was alone and the likeliness of catching up ahead was slim. I keep racing but could feel myself getting tired. I start questioning my gear, my fitness, should I even race fixed anymore? I thought to myself. My motivation was getting low and my confidence was lower. Suddenly, I see a shadow behind me and realize another rider was approaching me. SALVATION! It was Tamika Hingst and she was strong and fast as fuck. I tried to hang on to her wheel but my legs were giving out. She encouraged me to keep going but it was too late. The blue flags were waved at us. Our race was over. For the first time ever, I got pulled and didn’t finish the Red Hook Crit Brooklyn race. I was gutted. I rolled off the course and went to lay on the sidewalk where I started to laugh and cry uncontrollably. My teammate Brett came over to calm me down but I felt like I lost my mind. I kept laughing and crying and didn’t know if I was happy or sad. Everything felt surreal. The crowd continued to roar and cheer and bang on those dang cowbells until Raphaele Lemieux crossed the finish and won. Shoutout to my teammate Owen Blandy for finishing 34th in the Men’s final! And to the East London Fixed fam for always supporting each other no matter what the results, and to my babe Jason Hansen for being my rock and making everyone look hella good on camera. Finally, to the sponsors and Chrome Industries for welcoming to the family. Until the next year, see you again Brooklyn.
Photo by Jason Hansen
Photo by Matt Reyes