Race footage from the 2012 Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, NC.
I'm currently lacking the experience and aggressiveness to compete and place well in these NCC and USACrits races (this is my 4th in three years). Doing some sighting laps before the women's race I had felt confident about the course and my abilities and I was able to pedal through all the corners at a decent speed. My handling and cornering abilities had also been reinforced by my first race of the season the previous week in a technical crit. However, as you can see in the opening lap of the race, I could not hold my position to save my life through the turns. I completely blew my good starting spot (I had lined up 30 minutes early) and when the race started, I lost at least 10 spots on the starting straight, 12 through the first section of corners, and then 14 on the back straight. Just in between turns five and six I lost 12 spots! By the end of the first lap, I was somewhere in the back third of the field - not a good place to be in a race like this. As you might be able to hear, I was coasting through many of the turns and letting gaps open, especially in the first two turns off of the straightaway. Luckily, I was catching up between the last two turns, but often times I would lose some spots to people pedaling more confidently through these sections. Later in the race when things became more single file I squandered bountiful opportunities to advance my position going through the turns and short straightaways at the ends of the course where it was often feasible to go through 2 or three wide, even at speed. I needed to be doing this constantly to advance my position and avoid the danger zone at the back of the race.
One thing that I think worked well for me was staying seated almost the entire race and concentrating on spinning out of the corners. For the most part I was able to match the accelerations of guys jumping out of the corners standing but I was able to remain aero and save my legs somewhat.
Eventually, the back of the field shattered, leaving me and my teammate hanging out to dry. We gave chase valiantly for a few laps, but couldn't make up ground (understandably) on the United Health Care train that had finally assembled at the front of the field to start to reel in the breakaway. My race footage cut out a few laps before we were pulled by the officials for being out of contention. I ended up outlasting over half of the field (134 starters) but as the goal was to finish the race and finish in the money (30 deep), it was bit of a let down, especially as fitness is plenty deep enough to carry me to that goal. All I need now is the race skills and confidence...
Overall, I wouldn't say it was any harder than Iron Hill or Wilmington (the two other big crits that I've done) which is part of the reason why I'm disappointed. Unfortunately, doing local 1/2/3 races can't really prepare you for these type of national caliber events so I'll have to use these races as learning experiences and hopefully learn from them quickly as well as on the fly - it's a bit of a let down to spend 3 days driving to and from a race just to get pulled.
Our team's next big race will be Tour of Somerville and the Wilmington GP, both in May.
“Is it OK if I race with a video camera on my handlebars?”
I shouted that question over a boisterous crowd moments before the start of last Saturday’s Red Hook Criterium in Milan. Beneath me was a borrowed fixed-gear bicycle, and I didn’t want to upset the owner by tacking a bulky camera onto his gorgeous minimalist frame.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Antonio Colombo, owner of Columbus tubing and Cinelli bikes and of my machine for the evening.
The Red Hook Criterium is the most stressful event of the year for me. This is no routine park race. The hype’s been building.
With its offbeat format—a nighttime crit raced on fixed-gear bikes with no brakes—the Red Hook draws athletes from all walks of sport and throws each a curve ball.
Roadies like me have to adjust for constant pedaling and limited gearing. Track riders learn to negotiate changes of speed and tight corners in a dense pack. Fixed-gear messenger types contend with athletes who treat their bodies as if they were science experiments. Even the most seasoned racers have to deal with something new.
For weeks, online forums have been lit up with speculation and trash talking about the course and how pre-race favorites—who don’t usually race against one another—would stack up. Milan’s locals had been meeting on the course to train, test and re-test different gear ratios in an effort to find the fastest. There was the ever-growing list of prizes. The media coverage made the race feel like an all-or-nothing contest.
And in some ways it is.
The Red Hook happens just twice a year, in Brooklyn in the spring and in Milan in the fall. Unlike a lot of other races, there’s no event the following weekend to offer redemption. The outcome bolsters or haunts each racer for half a year. And after taking second place in the last two races, let’s just say the monkey on my back had worn a deep, painful groove.
As our 80-rider field rolled off the start line, it hit me that the next hour would be the most important of my three-week trip to Europe.
All during my stay, I’ve been aware that I’m essentially a representative of my country and its cycling community. So I’ve striven to be a polite guest. In theprevious week’s granfondo, for example, my aim was to show the competition that America can produce a skilled, etiquette-abiding cyclist.
But on the Red Hook Crit course, that mindset got thrown out the window.
After agonizing over this race for months, I had one concern: winning. No fun. No mercy. A diplomatic Dr. Jekyll replaced by a bloodthirsty Mr. Hyde.
In the end, the pressure lifted and my normal demeanor returned moments after I crossed the finish line, in first and just inches ahead of last year’s winner.
The relief was immense. And not just because I’d won. With the race over, I could relax and enjoy Europe.
Note: The Red Hook Criterium has been an astonishing success, and not just because it generates a great deal of hype and suspense. The event brings together cyclists, fans, and photographers who would never cross paths otherwise. While the occasion for the event is the race itself, it’s almost a distraction for the participants. To travel halfway across the world, stay in Europe for three weeks, and focus entirely on the outcome of a 45-minute bike race, well, that’d be an enormous waste. Strangely enough, now that the race is behind us, we can enjoy the best parts of it.
Race stats and ranking:
Average speed: 45.20 / 26.84 mph average
Fastest lap Neil Bezdek 2:14 48 kph / 30 mph average
1st Lap Prime Neil Bezdek
2nd Lap Prime Neil Bezdek
1. Neil Bezdek 43.01
2. Jon Ander Ortuondo ST
3. Alexander Barouh +01
4. Francesco Martucci +01
5. Danilo Borroni +01
6. Chas Christiansen +02
7. Tommaso Nolli +02
8. Nathan Trimble +03
9. Paolo Calabresi +05
10. Kacey Manderfield +05
11. John Taki Theodroacopulos +05
12. John Kniesly +05
13. Gabe Lloyd +06
14. Alessandro Stabilini +06
15. Marcello Scarpa +06
16. Giorgio Vianini +06
17. Riccardo Perego +07
18. Enrico Pezzetti +30
19. Giovanni Luigi Bocchi + 1:38
20. Ferdinando Pertusio + 1:38
Editing by Lab8
Cameras and footage provided by Chris Thormann
Onboard Neil Bezdek's bike
Race stats provided by David Trimble
A short documentary about professional runner, Ryan Vail. In this piece, we get to see the not-so-glamorous side of being a professional athlete and how not all professional athletes are created equal. Ryan speaks about the dedication and focus he has for running and why he devotes his life to such a sport.
ALSO check out the preVAIL EXTRAS - some things that weren't included in the documentary.