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Life after Red Hook Crit

Many people involved in one way or another in Red Hook Crit have found a way to extend their sporting career after the announcement of the indefinite absence of the events organized by David Trimble, but all of them still miss the shared experiences from the races in Brooklyn, London, Barcelona, and Milano. 

Almost a year after the announcement from the organization of the Red Hook Crit about the indefinite absence of their events in the cycling calendar, at RAW Cycling Magazine we think it is a good time to let people know what the main characters of these races, the riders, have been doing since the end of the last race in Milan, back in October 2018.

Despite being a big loss, the absence of the RHC in 2019 did not mean that the fixed-gear world died, as many events around the world kept the flame alive, trying to fix the broken souls after the loss of their main goal of the season. Even though everyone involved in these events has been able to find a way to extend their sporting career, all of them have missed the shared experiences from the races in Brooklyn, London, Barcelona, and Milan, as one can prove by checking the continuous flow of publications of them remembering when they used to race fixed gear bikes. Every cycling discipline is different, and that is why some aspects of fixed gear will never be replaced. These particularities will remain in the minds of all the fortunate who could make it to any of the big events organized by David Trimble.

Either gravel, cyclocross, mountain bike or road racing, there are a lot of RHC former participants that are now making a living far from the fixed gear world, and with this piece of writing, we want to show you the post-Red Hook chapter of some of them.

Colin Strickland

Winner of four RHC in a row, the cyclist from Austin (Texas) was at the spotlight of all the cycling community after winning Dirty Kanza in front of professional road cyclists and top world gravel racers. He admitted receiving an offer from EF Procycling a few days after the race, with the proposal to race Paris-Roubaix dressed in the colors of Jonathan Vaughter’s team. Nonetheless, one of the main reasons of Colin’s success is that he has never needed to rely on anybody to perform and, after realizing that the race calendar that he had been able to assemble for himself motivated him more than a full season committed to accepting orders from others, he rejected the offer. If Strickland had joined EF, he would have said goodbye to all the sponsors he had achieved over the years, which would have been a huge risk, because no one knows what could have happened if the road season did not go as planned.

As each of the riders that made it to this list, Colin Strickland is a versatile rider that stands out in a large variety of cycling disciplines. He did not get into bike racing until his mid 20’s, but he is genetically designed for long-distance events and, although nowadays he makes a living by focusing on gravel races, adding to his palmares wins in international events like The Rift in Iceland, he also takes part in local short and intense road criteriums to give additional exposure to his partners, like in the case of his personal deal with Red Bull

Long gone is his success in the fixed-gear world between 2015 and 2016, when he won the races in Brooklyn, London and Barcelona 2016, in addition to the last race in Milan the previous season. Consequently, he obviously claimed the title as the winner of the race series. In a few years we will know if Colin’s sporting career will be better known for his stage fixed gear riding or the later journey in the gravel scene, but what we can be certain of is that he will keep following his personal instinct which has led him to success in many occasions.

Sammi Runnels

Few cyclists were most constant than Sammi during the time the American was present in the Red Hook series. Despite not having any win or podium in her personal account, she finished seven times in the top 10, including three consecutive years in Brooklyn (2015, 2016, 2017), but it was away from the USA where she got her best placing, with the 4th place in London’s first edition back in 2015, the year she finished 5th overall after a decent 8th place in Milano.

Her last race in Brooklyn didn’t go as planned as she broke her handlebar and injured her hands quite hard after crashing against a fence of the circuit, ending all hopes of making it to the final. That was also her last Red Hook Crit participation because while the rest of her team traveled to Milano, she stayed in the US getting ready for the upcoming cyclocross season, a cycling discipline that Sammi started investing her time in a couple of years earlier. Furthermore, in recent years she has been continuously swapping between thin and fat wheels during the spring and summer, taking part in mountain bike races, road crits or tracklocross events, a mix of fixed gear and cyclocross.

It is in this discipline, cyclocross, which Sammi is now fully focused on, achieving great results in 2018 both in her home country and also abroad, which allowed her to participate in the World Championship in Bogense, Denmark, where she finished 30th. The striking colors of her bike and kit, like it is usual in everything that surrounds Squid Bikes, stand out wherever she is racing, and add a colorful touch to an environment that is well known for the dark colors from the mud.

This season she has spent the last part of the year and the first weeks of 2020 in Europe, racing in four World Cup races (Namur, Heusden – Zolder, Nommay, and Hoogerheide), in addition to other important continental races like the one that takes place the first day of the year in Baal, where she finished in the top 20. Although she was not in the roster that the USA sent to the World Championships in Switzerland that took place on February 1st, she can be proud of her season racing at the highest level.

Filippo Fortin

No one wants Red Hook Crit to end definitely, but if that is the case, Filippo Fortin would have the honor of being the winner of the last two events, which took place in Brooklyn and Milan in 2018. This last win was even more special, as it meant that he was the first Italian to win their local race in the men’s category, 9 years after the Red Hook Crit organization set their eyes in the city and picked it to be part of the series. Fortin’s successful streak came from a long way back since he had finished on the podium in each of the last five races, starting with his win in London No.3 in 2017. That year he finished 2nd in the GC behind his countryman Davide Vigano, but no one could prevent him from the absolute win the year after. 

Outside the fixed gear world, his performance in 2018 in road cycling was also fruitful, getting a contract with Cofidis, a Professional Continental team. Nonetheless, that had not been his first experience in this second tier of teams, as he spent a good amount of years in Italian teams like the well known Androni Giocattoli or Bardiani.

In 2020 Cofidis has stepped up and will now participate in the best events in the world. Despite achieving a few top10s in top-level races, Fortin is going back to the Continental team Felbermayr – Simplon Wels, the team where he already was in 2018. His biggest setback last season was a horrible crash in the first stage of the Tour de Pologne where he was diagnosed with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung, and a teammate with 50 stitches for a head wound. 

Ainara Elbusto

None of the participants that have ever started a Race Hook Crit since its first edition in 2008 has achieved more wins than Ainara Elbusto, woman or man. Her tally sums five wins between 2014, 2015 and 2016, in addition to the General Classification in the first two years. Her presence in the podium of the races in Europe and America was not something momentary, as she has continuously been in the higher part of the ranking in most of her races, something extremely difficult to accomplish in the fixed-gear scene, where there are too many variables to take into account to have high chances of having a great race. After her last win in Brooklyn No.9, the Spanish rider kept the high performance and in Barcelona No.5, which took place in September 2017, she almost extended her record, finishing 2nd just behind Ash Duban.

Midyear 2018, with the Red Hook Crit still present in the cycling calendar, Ainara signed a contract with the road team Bizkaia Durango, one of the most important women teams in Spain, with whom she would ride for the rest of the year and the following full season. She has changed her team for 2020, and she will wear the jersey of Casa Dorada Women Cycling, where she is going to reunite with Margaux Vigie, who already was her teammate in the fixed gear team Santafixie BLB. In a previous article, we already reviewed the last months of racing of the French rider Margaux, who has won races around the world. 

We are sure that both riders will now show what they are capable of, and apply their experience in the road races of the cycling calendar with outstanding power and technique gained during all those years racing fixed gear crits.

Justin Williams

If Justin Williams has made it to this list is not because of his results in Red Hook races, although it is necessary to highlight his 2nd place in Brooklyn 2018, but because of his impact in the cycling world. Both parts (the RHC organization and Justin himself) got benefited from the brief journey of the American rider in the fixed-gear scene; the mass of followers earned after his participation (Barcelona 2017 and the two events of the following year), as well as, his overwhelming domination in the local road crits, were the main reasons to start his own cycling team, Legion of Los Angeles, dedicated to “increasing diversity, encouraging inclusion and giving supporters access to their favorite athletes”

With them, Justin was able to revalidate in 2019 the Amateur Road Criterium National Championship that he had won the previous summer, between the RHC races of Brooklyn and Milano. Switching cycling disciplines and racing on back to back days is something he is used to (in a recent post he confessed that he has been doing crits 2-3 times per week every week since he was 14 years old), as his last seasons have been full of race days, most of them on road but also some fixed gear events like Mission Crit in San Francisco or Thunder Crit in London.

Focusing on his success after his stint in the Red Hook Crit, in addition to the National title previously mentioned, Justin Williams has shown a lot of times why the amateur category is too little for him. In the first part of the 2019 season, he and his team dominated most of the races, with the success in the prestigious race Tulsa Tough as an example. In the last part of the season, the wins came from the ASWD Twilight Criterium Salt Lake Criterium, San Rafael Sunset Criterium, and  Littleton Twilight Criterium. 

He is revolutionizing the cycling world, and proving that success should not depend on age, race or skin color. The relation with his partners goes further than what is strictly sport-related, implying them in projects to improve society. Together with the cycling brand Specialized, Justin Williams has promised that a bike will be donated to a junior for each USA crit that Legion of Los Angeles wins. Furthermore, he is an ambassador of the Outride Foundation, which uses bikes to improve emotional, social and cognitive health.

Between 2015 and 2017, in its peak period of time, the Red Hook Crit consisted of four events around America and Europe, but the incremental operational costs prevented further expansion. Long gone are those glory years and we still don’t know if those races are ever coming back, but none of the memories will ever be erased from the minds of the spectators and participants that enjoyed those fast, exciting races, which created a cycling community that is still nowadays the envy of all other cycling disciplines.

DRON Photo by: Anonymous
Photos by: Brazo de Hierro

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