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Red Hook Crit Brooklyn no. 10
Riding Along With the Aventon Women's Team
The Red Hook Crit is a spectacle. It's a bicycle race around a 1.2 km course that has 10 turns. There are over 60 competitors racing at once on fixed gear bikes (meaning you can't coast, and they don't have brakes). It's a crazy event and it brings out more fans than just about any bike race in North America – there were just over 8,000 spectators this year.
We wanted to cut through the spectacle and find out what makes the race so compelling for the racers. Competitors come from all over the world to toe the line on this pier in Brooklyn. So we decided to follow the Aventon Cycling Women's Team. This is their story.
Make it Fast
“The Team Strategy is to make it fast right from the beginning. And we’re trying to get Sammi on the podium. Nissy is a really really good sprinter and Esther is like a freight train, so she leads everybody out. I think we’ve got some really good power out there," Kym Nonstop told us after their initial qualifying races. The morning races would determine the riders positions on the grid at the finals that night.
Before the main race, there was a qualifying race to determine racer's positions on the starting grid. “I used to think starting position was not that important, but these races are fast right from the beginning. The girls who are up front are smart and they are going to try and create breaks right from the beginning because they want to thin out the pack. And the hairpin bottlenecks us, so if you don’t get to the front by the first turn you have to work so hard to move up because it gets so spread out," Kym Nonstop told us.
Sammi Runnels won her qualifying race from a breakaway with one other rider.
“They let another girl roll off the front with a pretty big gap and everyone on the front just kind of sat up," Sammi said. "So I attacked with maybe four back and bridged up to her. I looked back and we had a pretty big gap, so I figured we could stay away if we just worked together. I wanted to keep it fast, because things can get kinda sketchy when it bunches up.”
“This is definitely a party scene. It’s super awesome, everyone is just here to have a good time. If they aren’t racing, they’re stoked to watch the races. I definitely would compare it to the cyclocross scene. Just super laid back, beer chugging, good time," Sammi said.
“I really liked what this team was doing," Nissy Cobb said about Aventon Cycling. "They were one of the first teams to put together an all women's team for Red Hook. I got excited about it, it’s awesome to get the opportunity to travel. These races are so much fun.”
Before the final cycling races at night, the Red Hook Crit in Brooklyn has a 5k race that brings out some of New York City's fastest running crews. Kym raced the 5k between her qualifier bike race and the final bike race. She was the first women in history to finish both the 5k and final crit on the lead lap
“I’m hurting pretty bad," Sammi said. "I don’t know if you saw that crash, but I went down and then I got ran over like three times. Somebody was bulldozing up to the front on my right and just slammed into me. I went left and pushed into the girl on my left and she pushed into the curb. It just caused a pile-up. People just forget that it pinches. You just have to get clipped in and get going. You’re not going to win the race in the first 200 meters."
Once they restarted the race I was pretty sore, so I figured I should just get to the front and be aggressive. My teammate Elenore was the one who was going to be able to be up there at the front in the finish and she was. She finished second to Colene, it’s the best result she’s had so far.”
“The races were fucking awful," Kym said smiling. She'd raced the qualifier and finals on her bike and ran the 5k in-between. "I can’t even lie. The running race was awful, but the cycling race is harder to not get lapped in because it’s so fast. Cycling is so dependent on drafting so if you get dropped from the main pack you’re expanding twice as much energy, which means they are going to just keep gaining on you.”
I’m satisfied with the way the team did. Elenore got second, that’s pretty beast. And this is her second Red Hook ever.”
Until Next Time
“We don’t ride together because Elenore lives in France, I live in Texas, our other teammates live in San Diego and Seattle," Sammi said. "So it’s kinda just at the races, which kind of hinders our teamwork. But in these races, it’s all about who can be at the front.
I love my teammates, with Nissy and Esther I’ve known them for three seasons now so we definitely have a relationship.”
“It's pretty awesome when you go to a place and you're instantly connected to the cycling scene.”