Ask Becca: The Red Hook Crit

Red Hook Crit is this Saturday. People are schvitzing about crashing. Becca has the answers, paired with the weird and wonderful photography of Izzy Cohan.

I registered for the women’s race at Red Hook Crit, but now I’m afraid of crashing, what should I do?

Hmm. Well I guess I have to ask: Before this question came to you, did you have a fear of showering because one time you slipped and fell, and while trying to stand back up, slipped again, and in an attempt to regain your balance reached for the nearest object, which happened to be a plugged in hairdryer, which you accidentally powered on, and proceeded to drop into the wet shower, and in a series of events straight out of the movie “Final Destination” ended up electrocuting yourself, but not dying, and now death has been chasing you around, and you have a fear of almost every basic life event, especially, but not confined to crossing at an intersection when the hand is blinking, eating yogurt for lunch that you forgot to put in the fridge when you arrived at work and hence has been sitting out for 2.5 hours, and every 13th day of the month? And now, faced with the idea of Red Hook Crit, do you believe this is where death will finally be victorious?

If this above scenario applies to you, I would say, race. What better way to go out than at the Red Hook Crit. Death is coming for you, so make sure it gets you in a great place. But honestly, you're more likely to get caught in a post Red Hook Crit mob, your toes trampled upon, while you take an accidental blow to the face by a cheering Red Hook spectator, resulting in a bloody nose that may or may not need surgery, which could also be used to your advantage if you always secretly wanted to a nose job, than crash at Red Hook.

Now that Red Hook has separated the men and women, women should feel safe racing Red Hook as long as they have sensible bike racing skills, which can be gained in any bike race from coast-to-coast, sea-to-shining-sea, across the world. If you’re a New Yorker, you can even gain these skills at 6am the morning of Red Hook at the Prospect Park series race. Sign up to race with the men and if you don’t die doing that, you’ll be fine at Red Hook.

In my opinion the problem and fear of the Red Hook Crit for women was only in the era when there was a combined field. Before they separated the men and women into their respective fields there were only a few (namely one, Kacey Manderfield) women who could race fast enough to stay with the “safe” men. The rest of us very strong, able bodied, power pedaling women would max out near the most dangerous of the men. Those “dangerous men” are the men that are at their absolute physical limit, pedaling in the red to try to be as fast as the fastest guys, but just didn’t have it - they blow up, make really stupid decisions, and everyone crashes. Crashes can happen in other places, that’s bike racing. All bike racing.

In the women’s field crashes do happen, however there are not only less women, but the skill set stretches out the field, so when you crash you usually end up taking yourself out by overthinking a turn, wanting to stop pedaling (you can’t do that on a fixed gear), scraping a pedal and overreacting, or other weird sporadic race antics. And like I said, crashing happens. It’s bike racing.

Some things to think about: First, you know the Red Hook course (it’s on Instagram as a diagram). Go practice it. Second, you get to practice the course during your grid qualifier. You have thirty minutes. Take every part of the course at different speeds. Look at where the potholes are. Get a feel for the turns and how you like to take them. Third, unlike a road race where you pass each point one time at an unknown speed, you get to practice every single part of this course over and over again every lap during the race. So by the end you will know every pot hole. You will know what you feel comfortable doing. Ride at the edge of your comfort zone and you will be fine.

And remember. This is supposed to be fun. So embrace the craziness, get out there and give it a go. Unless it’s raining, and then I take all this back.

Who is Becca?

Becca Schepps is an old friend of Chalet. We all rolled 6am Prospect Park laps and wore lycra through ad agency offices together before she bailed to Boulder (we're a little jealous). She races & co-manages LA Sweat, a West Coast women's team with awesome kit, and is as obsessed with cycling as we are. Since we figured someone with 2000 miles since January, and 12,000 tweets has smart things to say about life and racing, we’re happy to have her answering the big questions from her fans right here on Chalet.

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Tomorrow, Becca will tell us what happened to all the real messengers at Red Hook.