Dave and I took the Eurostar train into central London on Thursday afternoon, and laughed about how we had just been in the Heathrow airport just 24 hours before. Our flights from California flew into and out of Paris (by way of London). It may seem odd to fly into Paris to race at Red Hook Crit London, but this was the beginning of a nearly two week trip that would include 2 fixed gear crits, and some fixed gear riding in and around 2 of the great cities of the world. So about 36 hours after we left San Diego, we arrived at our apartment in Greenwich London where we met Aventon teammates Brandon Gritters, Anissa Cobb, Kym Nonstop, our new French teammate Olivier Leroy, and our photographer Paul Williams. Everyone that brought a bike across an ocean got to London with all their gear. But somehow Olivier’s bike was delayed and wouldn’t arrive until Friday morning (always arrive 48 hours before your race). We had plans to ride in the morning, but a bunch of jet lagged bike racers have no problem sleeping in and heading out after noon. It gave us plenty of time to put together bikes in the backyard, and drink copious amounts of coffee.
Friday afternoon we set out to ride over to the Oakley store to pick up our numbers. London is one of those cities where riding is definitely faster than trying to drive or take public transport. Besides a harrowing moment with a big red double decker bus, and short moment where Santos forgot to ride on the left hand side of the road, the ride to the Oakley store was a great time. We crossed the tower Bridge, took in the view of the Thames, and entered the hustle and bustle of the city. We cruised along the Thames and hopped on the bike path to escape the big red buses, and made our way to check out Big Ben and Parliament. After stuffing ourselves into a London phone booth and snapping some pics of Big Ben, we rode by Buckingham Palace and then onto retrieve race numbers.
[From there it was a short ride to what is quite possibly the coolest bike shop I’ve ever visited. 'Look Mum No Hands' is a coffee shop, bar, café and bike shop. The place has a protection screen TV where they show Le Tour and you can check out a bike lock to protect your steed. Most of us enjoyed some food and a mid afternoon espresso, but Redbeard (Griiters) couldn’t resist having an afternoon beer.
So 2 espresso shots and and sandwiches later, we hammered back to our apartment in Greenwich. There is almost nothing more enjoyable than hammering down the street between cars stuck in big city rush hour, as those poor suckers watch in envy as you pedal away. We grabbed a quick shower (as quick as 8 people and 2 bathrooms can shower) and then left for dinner and the RHC London Pre-Party where we enjoyed a cold beer and the company of some good friends and competitors. Guys like Aldo and Colin from Team Specialized, Ronnie from Leader Bikes, and Zac Felpel from Heavy Pedal, and Ash Duban are truly our friends and it was great to see them, even though we would be battling against them the next day.
Race day is always a little stressful. I have to get to the course early to get our car in the team area, so it is normally a 12 hour plus day for me. The riders are all nervous about a race that most of them flew across an ocean attend. I left the apartment around 9 AM, and the racers showed up a few hours later. Redbeard was the first to qualify. Unfortunately he was in a group with no teammates, so he would have to find strong riders to work with and set a good qualification time. Nonstop and Nissy had plans to work together in their qualifying group, but somehow got separated and never really saw each other. Luckily Frenchy and Santos had each other to work with. The fact that the other riders know our guys are strong helps a bunch, because then the other riders are willing to work with them. Nissy and NonStop qualified 16th and 32nd. Not as high up as I would have liked, but luckily it is a little easier to move up in the women’s race compared to the men’s. Frenchy and Santos qualified in the top 20, but Redbeard had to start at 71. We had 2 of our guys in a really good starting position, but Redbeard was going to have a challenge on his hands.
The men’s race started fast as usual. Unfortunately for Redbeard, there was a crash right in front of him at the first corner. Brandon is a great bike handler and managed to stay upright, but he instantly went to nearly last place and was starting from almost a dead stop. Brandon has a huge diesel engine, and he spent the entire race passing riders and moved up to 38th place, but that was the best he could manage. If Brandon can qualify in a better position, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. While Redbeard was trying to inch his way to the front, Santos and Olivier were duking it out in the front. Just over the halfway point, Santos attacked and Colin Strickland went with him. This was pretty much a best case scenario, as Colin and Dave are both great breakaway riders. Colin has shown himself to be unstoppable since he won Milan for Aventon last year. And while he is now racing against us, he is still a great breakaway partner. Unfortunately the move didn’t stick. I honestly think that David dug a little too deep on the initial attack, and he just couldn’t stick with Colin. I’m not taking anything away from Colin. He is a beast right now, and he proved that by counterattacking himself. Who does this!? Colin is just on point at the moment. From there the race was basically a repeat for Brooklyn. Colin rode away while Aldo patrolled the front. Colin’s gap slowly and steadily grew until he had a nearly insurmountable lead. A hard chasing Loic Chetuout may have actually caught Colin if the race were a couple laps longer. But Colin stayed away with Chetout coming in just behind the field sprinting for third. Santos was 4th in the field and sprinted to get himself a 6th place, literally inches from the podium. A few hours later I told the Specialized guys (Colin and Aldo) that I was pissed that they keep beating us. I’m not pissed at them, as those guys are truly my friends. I bought them a beer, told them we would get them next time, and made plans to go stay with Aldo in Slovenia after RHC Milan. Tomorrow I would leave for Paris and then Dijon with Santos and NonStop.
This was the most talented RHC women’s field ever assembled. Besides the normal cast of characters, you had pro rider Jamine Dotti, and multiple time world championand Olympic god medalist Dani King. Our girls were going to have a rough day. As it turns out EVERYONE had a rough day. Dani king simply out classed everyone. She lapped most of the field before the halfway point in the race. With a few laps to finish she lapped the only 2 riders that had not been pulled, so Ash Duban and Jasmine Dotti sprinted for second place while the rest of the field licked their wounds and watched the race on the big screen.
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