Red Hook Recap: Milan #9
Words by: Charles Nicholson
Photos by: The East London Fixed team
Red Hook Crit Milano always feels like it was only yesterday. You can already hear the drumming on the boards. There’s a romance to coming back each year which no other Red Hook quite captures. Perhaps it’s because you always know what to expect with the course being set in stone and the passionate Italian crowds coming back year in year out. The only difference is that you know this time the racing will be even faster.
And then there it is. Unfortunately only the second chance I’ve had to don a skinsuit this year so the nerves are back. Time to nail pre race prep. Pasta, more pasta, and some beer to ease the jitters.
Vigorelli track day. This massive velodrome seems to appear from nowhere in the middle of Milano. Climbing the stairs up to the riders area you are overwhelmed by the scale and sense of history of the track. You can truly feel the history in places. Unlike any other velodrome I’ve been on, it rides and sounds more like a rickety old rollercoaster than a professional velodrome. However, the atmosphere catches me soon enough and I turn on the power to see just what my legs have in them. It feels right. When the track day is done, once again it’s time to hunt down more pasta and get a good nights sleep ahead of race day.
Race day. No more messing about. Now it’s time. The clouds are grey and threatening rain so I mentally prepare for the worst and head out to the circuit. The open circuit feels good, the route is already memorised but this time I actually have what you might refer to as confidence. Owen eggs me on to go for a bigger gear so 48×14 it is. Now is the time to go big or go home. Our warm up runs over as the previous heat gets red flagged multiple times. The promise of rain was true but fortunately not so bad. However, as the fastest course in probably any fixed gear crit, even a little bit of moisture on the track could spell trouble.
Finally, on the grid, the terror and fear weirdly subside. It starts to feel fun. Trimble shouts go and it’s on. I clip in immediately but get held back as a rider in front fumbles and nearly takes out other riders. Shit. Already back on the group, try and bridge it! Done, now hold on. The pace increases. I can corner faster but don’t want to risk overtaking in the wet. Next straight and the pace rockets up. Try and hold on! No luck, we’re back in no mans land. Just keep on the gas and let the attrition begin. Lungs burning, the bike is handling immensely well in the wet conditions so confidence is good! But then, there he is, the inevitable sweeper moto. Pulled out with two laps to go.
The track has dried up almost completely for the ACR so it’s going to be fast. Great start and I’m up with the front group. Laps start to tick by and my lungs are on fire again. Can’t hold on the straights, a big gap emerges growing more and more, it’s history repeating itself. But then coming in hot behind is number 346, Alessandro Scazzi, pulling a two man train and he signals to jump on so I do. We soon become four and begin to close in on the lead pack. Suddenly a big crash in turn 4 and the race gets red flagged. Commotion back at the start finish line as the organisers re-shuffle the group into their previous lap time positions… and they call my number? Really? I asked. We will start 5 seconds behind the lead group. GO! Bridge the fucking gap! Now just hold on for three laps. Start taking positions, corner harder, sprint, chase the wheel. Holy shit I’m actually going to finish! Over the line and elation erupts through me. Only a few places behind my team mate Max we do a final victory lap and pull off. Mountains of beer and double pizza, the ultimate reward.
It’s hard to explain how insane Red Hook is as someone with no other crit racing experience and generally never having had much desire to race crits. I’m a climber and a diesel engine, it couldn’t be a worse discipline for me. Yet somehow everything aligned and I actually did well, and had a fucking blast doing it. Oh, and it always helps having your mates from London and Barcelona cheering on your name, it makes all the difference when you’re actually doing well. Much love to everyone for the support. And a huge shoutout to all of our team sponsors this year:
(Ahem. Cue my Oscar acceptance speech…)
Quirk Cycles, the frames are absolutely immense, glad to finally do it justice. Cole Coatings Workshop brought the frame to life with a rad paint job that makes me want to thrash it. Halo Wheels are the bomb, ’nuff said. Vittoria tyres for cornering confidence. Comfort and fit from all the Fizik parts. Giro for the best shoes I’ve ever used. Biehler Cycling for the phenomenal skinsuit and support. Bell Helmets for keeping me safe and looking good. GripGrab gloves so you #neverloseyourgrip. Chrome, you guys are just awesome. I never imagined when I first started riding track bikes you would be supporting me and my team. Oh, and the Macheto travel bag is the best ever.
And my ELF familia, I love you guys and gals so much, thanks for always egging me on even when I feel like shit.
ELF Race Team
Veronika doing her best Michael Jordan impression while Ben & Charles look on
En Route to Pizza & Beer in Milano
Seriously though, where’s the pizza and beer?