It’s a Crit, Crit Summer
Two high-profile urban crit races have cyclists bouncing coast to coast this month, giving it all the blood, sweat and gear inches they can muster at the second race of Red Hook Crit series, in New York, and the Wolfpack Hustle Civic Center Crit in Los Angeles, also its second race, of the mixed-race Unified Title series.
Earlier this month in Brooklyn, it was another intense night of racing at the the Navy Yard for the second race of the Red Hook Crit series, where cobblestones and railroad tracks proved to be the lesser dangers on the course–it was the S-turn at the end of the loop that gave racers the most trouble, the site of a number of hairy crashes that took quite a few out of the running and spread the group out as they navigated around downed riders at high speeds.
For one young cyclist, the day came to an early end when he crashed into the barriers so badly during his qualifying round that he needed to be rushed off to the hospital. NYC local Joshua Hartman, 15, is the youngest member of the Major Taylor Development Team, and regularly races in senior categories in road and track; however he is now recovering from significant blood loss and facial fractures.
“In the 6 years this is the only time we have ever sent someone to the hospital at the event,” said RHC organizer David Trimble. “It is by far the worst crash we have ever had.”
A recovery fund for Hartman has been established and is accessible through the RHC website.
“The rising stature of the event means riders are pushing it harder and there is more competition,” said Trimble. “As the competition raises, the closer to the limit everyone needs to perform. Unfortunately, at this event, a lot of people found themselves over the limit.”
Barring Hartman’s unfortunate accident, all other crashes resulted in minor injuries, though they had a major impact on the outcome of the final race, in which only five riders finished before being lapped by the pace motorbike. RHC veteran Neil Bezdek, who took first at the Cruise Terminal in March, secured another victory at the Navy Yard. The only racer who came close to him, who looked as if he might possibly overtake his opponent in the final lap, was Kyle Murphy. Locking in second, Murphy took the same podium place his brother, Evan, had held in the previous race.
In attendance to take notes in preparation for this weekend’s Civic Center Crit in Los Angeleswas Wolfpack race organizer Don Ward (you might know him as Roadblock). Ward has thrown a number of guerrilla bike races over the years, and more recently transitioned towards more legitimized, permitted races outfitted with course marshals and safety coordinators. The Civic Center Crit, to be held this Sunday, June 23, will be the first of its kind under Ward’s direction, and is guaranteed to bring out many of the same faces that were scrunched in the intensity of battle at the Navy Yard, along with many strong local SoCal contenders who are new to criterium racing.
“I’ve been looking for a while to create more controlled and safer race concepts and I was completely inspired by the Red Hook Crit when I found out about it,” said Ward. “I’ve been to two of them now and I’m loving the format. I tweaked the qualifier format a bit for ours and made it four finales, with men’s and women’s road and track to match our tradition of all-inclusiveness.”
While the RHC series groups all racers together in competition, and the turnout for women at the Navy Yard was indeed strong, Ward hopes to drive participation from women by offering an equal cash prize for all four race categories.
“Since day one, Wolfpack Hustle has subscribed to the MidnightRidazz mantra of all-inclusiveness,” said Ward. “The one thing I loved about the old Ridazz rides is the energy that was brought to it by the women who organized for the first couple years. Having women participate and be treated as equals brings a balanced feel to the rides and to our races. I’m sticking to my guns about that; even thought the participation is a lot lower, the women that do come out and compete bring seriously some of the fiercest competition to our events.”
In light of the carnage on the Navy Yard course, Ward has made an effort to double up on safety infrastructure for Sunday’s race.
“I think its a mistake to think that any race is ever safe, including sanctioned races. Not five weeks ago we lost Chris Cono, an elite veteran racer in a fully sanctioned permitted USAC race with wide open streets. Never in a million years would I think that was going to happen at that race,” said Ward.
“I count myself as being extremely lucky that hasn’t happened in some of the races I’ve thrown over the years. Races that mixed live traffic and insane circumstances. This year Wolfpack Hustle became a member of American Bicycle Racing so that we can provide rider medical insurance. I’ve invested heavily in safety infrastructure for this course, including 450 foam tuff blocks. I’ve spent literally hours and hours looking at the course, studying the pavement routing, re-routing, consulting with vets like Dorothy Wong; even David Trimble threw in some suggestions.”
While organizers may go to great lengths to keep everyone safe, ultimately much is left up to the riders on the course. Trimble’s steady reminders for racers to “Keep it clean” and “Take it easy” at the Navy Yard are sentiments that can be carried into any race. There’s certainly a fine line between pushing the limits and knowing your limits.
What will Sunday hold for what may be the hottest urban race of the summer in the West?
“I’m looking forward to seeing the whole thing come together and the athletes that are coming in from all over,” says Ward. “I’m giddy actually at the names I’m seeing registered: Chas [Christensen], Walton [Brush], Marc Marino, John the Roadie, Craig Streit, Fabian Vasquez, Asia Morris, Kelli Samuelson, Joanie Celso, Veronika Volok, Nyrah Hearts, Beatriz Rodriguez, Evan Stade, Domincan Crihs, Austin Horse, Jason Clary, Bud Abille, Rich Bartlett, Robbie Miranda, Todd Lyons?! I’m nervous as fuck. All of these riders are warriors.”
Check out the Rider Spotlights here to see who’s in the running for Sunday’s race around Downtown L.A.