“The Red Hook Crit Men’s race might never end with a field sprint again.” At least that was my prediction the day before Red Hook Crit London #3. Much of the team agreed with me, and it wasn’t a risky prediction. After all, the last time the men’s race finished in a field sprint was 2 years ago, at RHC London #1.
With rain in the forecast and some heavy hitters in both the men’s and women’s races, we fully expected both races to end in a breakaway. The plan was to be on high-alert from the start to ensure we make the early breakaway.
But first, we had to make it through the qualifying heats.
The new qualification scheme with actual races is good for us as a team. All of our men and women are easily capable of getting into the top 5 of their heat and getting a good starting spot on the grid. But things happen. There are no free laps for mishaps like there are in road bike crits, and wet roads equal flats and spills.
Isaac was our first qualifier and finished 5th in his group, so he would be headed for the super pole. It didn’t go so well for Tristan and Dave. Tristan was nervous after running over another rider during the practice session. That session left Tristan unscathed, but shaken up. He simply wasn’t himself and finished 11th in his heat.
Dave was looking strong in his heat and his group of 7 lapped the rest of the field. But my heart sank when the finishers sprinted across the line and Dave was nowhere to be seen. Dave took a pretty hard spill and went over the barriers on the last lap. Luckily, his injuries were minor and since the rest of the field was lapped, he finished in 7th place.
We finished the men’s qualifiers on a strong note as Olivier easily won his heat. All three women were in the first women’s heat. Torrential rains started almost immediately after the race began, and the women raced around the circuit in a downpour. Luckily, everyone stayed upright and the team exhibited near perfect tactics to make sure Eleonore won her heat, with Sammi in 4th and Kym farther back.
Rain is almost always good for a breakaway, and riding in a small breakaway is safer than riding with a huge pack. The super pole was canceled, but Eleonore and her custom painted Aventon Cordoba started in 2nd place, with Sammi close behind. The plan was to put Eleonore in an early move where she would be safest and where she would also have a chance to pick up some mid-race prime points.
Sammi would be there to help her out and chase down a move if we missed it. Sammi hit the deck on lap 4. She was fine and she hopped back up to chase, but the crash caused a flat and she was done.
Kym was struggling near the back of the group, so Eleonore was all alone. Eleonore looked cool, comfortable, and in control the whole race. In fact, an examination of lap times and placements by Chris Tolley shows that Eleonore was in the top 5 racers for all, but 3 laps. Despite efforts by Dani King, Eleonore, Tanja Erath, Jasmine Dotti, and others, no breakaway group managed to survive. Eleonore was positioned perfectly in second wheel with 1 to go. Raphaele Lemieux attacked on the back side of the course and was first into the last corner. Eleonore was charging hard, but ran out of room and couldn’t quite come past Lemieux. Second place again.
Olivier was our best placed rider in the men’s race and claimed #2 on the starting grid. Isaac was around 20th while Dave and Tristan started in 28th and 45th. Once again, we would be looking for a breakaway. While Dave and Tristan slowly worked their way towards the front of the race each lap, Olivier stayed near the front and was attentive to any possible breakaways. Isaac is still trying to figure out fixed gear racing, and was holding steady near mid-pack.
Olivier looked great the entire race, and by about 10 laps in, I could see that he and Dave would present our best chance at the podium. 19 laps in, there was a huge crash and 3 of our 4 went down. Luckily, nobody was badly injured, and the pileup caused a restart.
Unfortunately, the crash happened just as David was nearing the front, and this was his second crash of the day. Tristan wasn’t his usual self, Issac was struggling, and Dave was done.
But luckily, Olivier was looking as strong as ever. He took the mid-race prime and wasn’t the slightest bit fazed. He stayed consistently in the top 10 and looked like he was preparing for the final sprint. With 5 aps to go, he flatted. Olivier was done. The race finished in a field sprint, won by Filippo Fortin, while Tristan and Isaac finished 17th and 38th. Our worst men’s finish in over 2 years.
We had a little good luck and a little bad luck in London. But Eleonore got us on the podium and still holds the leader’s points jersey by a point and the women’s team took a commanding lead for the women’s team competition. It will be a battle between Saraiva and Lemieux in Barcelona for sure. The men will be itching to redeem themselves at Red Hook Crit Barcelona #5, and they’ll be looking to improve Tristan’s 2nd place finish from last year.
Check out more photos from the race below