by Sean Burke May 02, 2018

The Aventon Factory team goes to each race with a plan to win it, and Red Hook Crit Brooklyn was no exception. We went to New York with a solid men’s team, and probably the strongest women’s team we’ve ever had. The women’s team was made up of a former world champion rower (Lisa), the 2017 RHC series champ (Eleonore), a former stuntwoman (Kym), and a rider fresh off a solo victory at Mission Crit (Esther). So, while we went to Brooklyn as one of the top men’s teams, our best shot at victory was most likely with the women.

The team arrived in Brooklyn with all the bikes and riders showing up on time and unbroken. We checked into our hotel and kept our fingers crossed that the rain would stay away through the weekend. Almost nobody likes racing in the rain, but we all felt that the rain might help us a bit.

As far as I know, we are one of the only teams using tubeless wheels, and the tubeless setup provided by our wheel sponsor, Irwin, allows us to run lower tire pressures (lower tire pressures equal more grip on those wet corners). Friday is a day we usually use to recover from travel, put the bikes together, and head to Prospect Park to test the legs a little. But the intermittent rain all day made that ride a little shorter than usual, and we didn’t do much more than pedal few miles and pick up race numbers. Still, it was enough to test the gear and for the riders to loosen up.

There was a slightly new qualification system for both men and women. The women’s field has grown significantly over the last 4 years, and this was the first time that some women were eliminated and would not race in the final. The ability to eliminate some of the women is a sign of success, and it’s good to see an increasingly competitive field where riders must earn their way to the final. All our women made the final as expected.

NonStop and Esther both started a little too far back for my liking, but everyone was there. The race started off fast, as usual, with those first lap primes really get everyone going right from the gun. Early on, Margeaux Vigie (Santafixie BLB London), found herself with around a 10-second gap on the field. We’ve seen how these early moves can stick at RHC races, so alarm bells started going off when the gap wasn’t closed quickly.

Eleonore and Lisa were doing a large share of the work to bring Vigie back but weren’t getting much help from the peloton. So eventually, Lisa decided to bridge the gap solo and it looked like she and Vigie might stay away. Lisa was easily the stronger of the two, and easily took the mid-race prime, but the pair was swallowed up soon after.

In a perfect execution of team tactics, Esther attacked almost immediately after the catch and quickly built up a lead of 8-10 seconds. Her teammates in the group helped disrupt the chase and the gap was holding steady. With 6 laps to go, I was almost sure Esther was going to win.

We’ve seen solo breaks stick in the men’s races, so we know it can work here. If I were a gambling man, I easily would have put $100 and Esther to win at that point. But soon after, Carla Nafria (Specialized Rocket Espresso) took an incredible dig at the front. Nafria worked so hard that she pulled out of the race afterward and didn’t even finish. But the big pull brought Esther within striking distance of the rest of the pack, and she was soon swallowed up.

I didn’t like what just happened but must admit that it was an excellent piece of teamwork. In the end, Nafria’s work paid off, and her teammate Raphele Lemieux took the victory. The Aventon Factory Team spent almost the whole race off the front, but we couldn’t finish it off and finished 5th. It wasn’t the result we wanted, but we demonstrated the strength and teamwork that will hopefully lead to victory.

The men’s started off strong in the heats, with all riders but one qualifying for the first ten rows. Going into the final, I expected the top 3 teams to be the Aventon team, Specialized, and Bauhumer, and the plan was to get either Olivier or David in a break. We kept our fingers crossed that the rain would stay away and lined up for the start.

Of course, the race started off ridiculously fast, because that’s the way it always does. To be honest, this wasn’t the best race for us. Some our men were showing great form, but for whatever reason, they all struggled a little bit in Brooklyn. We struggled to hit the front of the race and were never present in any of the big moves. With 6 or 7 laps to go, the Specialized team all hit the front and prepared their lead-out for Justin Williams.

Around the same time, the clouds that had so far held their contents decided to open up and dump rain on all of the riders. Here is the thing about racing in the rain: When you are racing for the win, the rain won’t stop you, and you’ll ride just as hard or even harder because of it. But when you aren’t feeling it, and the opportunity for victory is already slipping away, you simply don’t have the motivation to give everything and take the extra risks in the rain.

In the end, our top result was Olivier in 11th. To be honest, I’m happy everyone stayed upright in the rain. We’ll be back to fight another day. But this coming weekend isn’t for fighting, it’s for fun.

Several of the SoCal riders are headed to Mexico, to do the Rosarito-Ensenada fun ride, and enjoy some tacos and beer. Stay on the lookout for photos and the story.

Sean Burke
Sean Burke

Sean Burke has ridden and raced just about every type of bike there is. He has coached riders from 7 to 70, including state and national champions. He loves long climbing rides, but is a track racer at heart. He managed to ride his bike in 8 countries last year. And plans to lead Aventon Racing to a successful season in 2016. Sean is the founder and head coach at Crank Cycling as well as the co-founder at Appetite 4 Adventure.


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