Brooklyn, New York.
The 2012 edition of the Red Hook Criterium marked a major turning point for the race. What began as an informal race around the dark streets of Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood has grown into serious business. Organizer David Trimble, whose birthday celebration was the impetus for the first Red Hook Crit, has built his fixed gear street race into a true event, drawing top riders from around the country and overseas. The 100-person field sold out swiftly this year and the assembled fans may well have exceeded 1,000 in number in a location about as remote (and intriguing) as one can find in the hustle and bustle of New York City.
In just a few short years, Trimble has created a race that easily builds more hype and draws more excited spectators than any 6:00am race in Central Park, with or without professionals in attendance. This is no ordinary criterium around the parking lot of a corporate park. There is one field and one field only, meaning seasoned racers line up against skilled urban riders, messengers, and newcomers alike. Lapped riders are eliminated. Fixed gear, no brakes, no fear. Women race with men, and given that the original race champion happens to be female (Kacey Manderfield won the first RHC in 2008), that's a clear sign of respect.
This year's race saw an increased sponsorship presence, a greater depth of competition, and more cowbell-clanging fans lining the course. For the first time, a 5k running race preceded the criterium, adding a seemingly odd yet perfectly matched component to the evening. The bike race covered 30 kilometers in 24 laps of a dizzyingly fast course at Brooklyn's cruise ship terminal. A few light towers provided spots of illumination while much of the race zipped through the quiet darkness of the industrial waterfront.
Former bike messenger and budding racer Dan Chabanov, the defending champion and two-time winner, met and exceeded expectations by breaking away on the fourth lap and holding off a hard-charging field for an emphatic solo win. Chabanov's victory was impressive, but not a runaway. His gap was 10 seconds at the finish, but along the way he set a blistering pace and swept around the course with a fluid pedal stroke and a determined grip on the bars. Rainier Schaefer of San Francisco took second place, followed by Evan Murphy in third. As for original RHC champion Manderfield, she showed once more that she remains a threat, finishing an impressive 9th and taking the prize for first female.
Peloton is a proud sponsor of the Red Hook Criterium, including a prime for the fastest lap of the race, handily won by none other than Chabanov. As with all great events, we begin looking forward to next year's race the day after this year's ends.