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Mr Red Hook Interview
1.) So first of all – and I already know the answer but it’s you who should be telling people – what makes this race so special relative to other city bike races/alleycats etc.?
The Red Hook Criterium is at its core a proper Criterium. It´s a short fast race on a tight technical circuit. In order to win you need race honed tactics (drafting, preserving energy for key moments, attacks, etc.). In this regard you could compare it more to the Athens Twilight Criterium than Monstertrack.
Putting the competitors on track bikes adds the street dynamic. There is not going to be a meathead with no bike handling skills pulling the peloton in this race. If you are fit and strong but don´t know how to handle a pothole filled chicane without brakes you are going to get dropped. Last year a John Kniesly a non USCF categorized rider finished 2nd. Chris Thormann (2009 Monstertrack champ) is only a lowly cat 4 on the road. These kids are lapping Cat 1 and 2 road racers who don´t have the confidence to man-handle their bikes around the course.
2.) What was the initial core community around this race like when it started, what kind of racers first turned up, what was their riding background, messengers, roadies, fixed gear kids?
The race started small. Most of the first competitors were personal friends of mine. That being said it was still a micro sample of all the different cycling communities in New York City. The idea has always been to draw roadies, cross racers, mountain bikers, and alleycat champs to the race. The winner of the first edition in 2008 was Kacey Manderfield. She had never ridden a track bike on the street before. She was already a multiple collegiate national champion and later that same year won a National Track Championship.
3.) How has that changed now? What kind of field do you expect this year? Some of the strongest messengers have notoriously ‘forgotten’ to show up in the last few years – is that going to change this time round? Has the range of interested riders really expanded since 2010? Are there a limited amount of entries?
The diversity of the field increases every year. There´s a new breed of racer that is interested in urban events like this but not interested at waking up at 5 am to race in the Central Park or risk life and limb in an alleycat. There is an annual "fixed" only race series in Brooklyn called "Boogie Nights" that is organized each fall by Chris Kim. The riders coming out of this series are strong and highly motivated for Red Hook.
On the road side an increasing number of serious locals are considering Red Hook. In the past they have dismissed it as stupid and too dangerous. Over the years the race has been proven to not only be fun but also relatively safe.
From the alleycat community there are two notable riders who have been absent in the past - Alfred Bobe and Austin Horse. As a race organizer I´d be proud to see them on the start line this year. If I´m not "established" enough for their presence I´ll have to deal with that.
4.) In terms of organization is anything changing this year? Is the race going to be legal this year? Any special new features we should know about?
The format and execution will be identical. The only change is that we will have the permits and the streets will be shut down. It won´t be a big change for the riders but it´ll be big change for the course marshals. So far the race has at least doubled in size each year. If it doubles again after last year it is going to be big.
It should be noted that without the presenting sponsor Eastern Mountain Sports the race would not have been able to grow any further. I had hit a point where I had to either become a little more legit with permits or bring it back deep underground. EMS is an incredible company that is making a real push become integrated into the cycling local community.
5.) The New York course seems like by far the most technical of the three (I know the Berlin one is still in the works). Is this intentional? What’s the thinking behind the selection of cobbles and s-bends?
The circuit is a result of the neighborhood. A dark empty neighborhood in New York City is going to have bad roads. The roads have actually become increasingly worse as they winters have gone by. For me the technical aspect is what makes this race unique. In Milano the roads were smooth but that just meant you had to drive into them faster. The race is Brooklyn is different as the acceleration out of the corners is the key.
6.) Is the course so technical or particular that you think it requires any event-specific equipment? Do you have any preferences for bike set-ups for the events? Ambrosio nemesis rims laced to low flange NJS dura ace hubs??? Steel frames? Road bars with brake hoods (empty)? Track bars? Double tape? 25s or 23s? Have you noticed a change in equipment used in the race since the first edition?
Everything you mention here would be perfect. The number 1 advice is USE HEAVY DUTY TIRES. Last year half the field flatted out. Lightweight racing tires will not help you out here. If I were racing I´d be on 25´s. The key is also how you ride over the obstacles. There are racers who flat every single year and there are riders who have never flatted. A steel bike with handmade Ambrosio Nemesis rims with Dugast Paris Roubaix tubulars would be ideal. There´s a local bike shop (9th Street Cycles) running the wheel pit. If you DO get a flat you have one lap to get it changed and back in the race.
7.) What are the prizes this year?
What the riders should aim for is the cobblestone trophy fabricated by my uncle Roo Trimble. I literally dig a cobble out of the street and send it up to his machine shop in MA where he transforms it into a proper trophy.
The grand prize is a custom painted Cinelli Vigorelli frameset and $500 cash. As the race grows in stature its important for me to give away prizes that are unique. Having a custom frame straight from the Italian factory is going to be a good incentive. Beyond the frame the prize list is deep. Giro is producing custom helmets and Rapha is supplying high end riding kit. I´m also expanding the prize payout to the top five this year.
Another unique thing about Red Hook is the primes. We have the "breakfast" and "dinner" primes which are an assortment of fancy food (most of it local). The breakfast primes will be coffee, local eggs, homemade granola, etc.... The dinner prime will be olive oil, wine, pasta, etc... The Philly/NYC based coffee roaster La Colombe is sponsoring these prizes. They´ll also have their vintage Citroen H van at the event providing espresso to the riders and spectators.
I also have a new $100 prime for the fastest lap this year.
8.) Who does your graphic design?
I like to say its a collaborative process with my friend Jonah Birns (www.jonahbirns.com) but he really does all the work. We spend a ridiculous amount of time staring at the computer screen perfecting all of the graphics. The attention to detail he puts into his work is amazing. Without his design skills I´m certain the race would not be where it is today.
On the t-shirt side we have them printed locally in Brooklyn by Teamscreen. The shirts we sold in Milano were actually printed at his shop and ferried over. If you know anything about screen printing you´ll recognize how complex the design is. Each color requires a different screen.
I´ll be selling the shirts at both the Eastern Mountain Sports store in Manhattan and on the Gage + Desoto website (www.gagedesoto.com)
9.) Lastly and most importantly – who is going to win? Pre-race favorites? Dark horses? Can a ride like Alfred Bobe actually win this kind of event?
Alfred could win for sure. He´s crazy good at handling his bike and is strong. My pick has to be Neil Bezdek. He was outraced in Milano by Jon Ander Ortuondo and almost slipped into depression because of it. Ortuondo himself is flying over from Milano to defend his win and I´m guessing he´s not making the trip to finish 2nd. The dark horse has to be John Taki Theodorakopoulos. He took himself out of contention last year with a badly administered home doping program. He has since cleaned up his act and finished an incredibly strong 3rd in Milano. Another guy to watch for is someone nobody knows - Ruben Klein. He´s a serious endurance mountain bike racer who nearly won the Trans-Divide race a few years ago. He´s by far one of the strongest riders in New York.
At the end of the day what really matters is the after party. Brooklyn Brewery is once again providing the beer