From the beginning the Red Hook Crit wasn’t like most bike races. Originally founded in 2008 as fly-by-night birthday party race for event organizer David Trimble, and featuring just a couple dozen racers, the Crit grew up out of a culture of alleycat races (unsanctioned bike races through city streets like Monstertrack), New York City bike messengers and fixed-gear track bikes with no brakes. Track bikes and the associated culture were blowing up at the end of the 2000s and Trimble seized the excitement with a surprisingly traditional grip.
Criterium racing takes a big group of riders and puts them on a closed circuit that’s usually less than a mile long for a relatively short race that runs about 45 minutes. Speeds are high, fans can see racers every 30 seconds and the race itself only requires a small amount of real estate — in short it’s about as exciting as bike racing gets. It’s no wonder then that the Red Hook Crit has exploded in the seven years since its first running and — despite expanding to London, Milan and Barcelona — keeps attracting bigger and bigger crowds at its original south Brooklyn race.
How The Race Works
-Separate Men’s and Women’s fields
-24 laps (1.25 kilometers per lap) / total distance of 30 kilometers (Men)
-Timed qualifying format to set 85-rider starting grid
-Qualifying positions 86 through 150 line up for a 14-lap “Last Chance Race” with the top 10 finishers advancing into the main event
-Brakeless, fixed-gear track bikes required
-Lapped riders eliminated
As thousands poured into the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal for the eighth edition of the well organized and hugely sponsor-backed event, it was hard see much of the race’s humble beginnings (or even the event as we saw it in 2013), but what the race may have lost in under-the-radar cachet, it’s gained in pure speed. To qualify for the main event you would’ve needed to run a 1:33.6 over a hot lap of the 0.77-mile course (a screaming 29.6-mile-per-hour average), and the winner, Ivan Ravaioli, averaged 27.1 miles per hour over the 40-minute race. As a result the Crit is now attracting huge global competition: only two of the top 15 finishers in the men’s race were from the US.
Despite the fiercer competition and the incredible growth, there’s still a sense that something different is happening on the back streets of Red Hook. There’s still a sense of rebellion from traditional bike racing, there’s still an intense connection to New York City and there’s still a really good group of guys going really fast on track bikes. For now, at least, the Red Hook Crit is alive and well.