Ask Becca: Where the messengers at?

It's the Red Hook Crit today. It used to be chock full of real life bike messengers, vying for the podium. Where are they now? Becca has the answers, Izzy Cohan has the photos.

What happened to all the bike messengers who used to race Red Hook?

I think they may still be getting over their hangovers from the pre-party the night before. Or perhaps now they’re just further down on the result list. You’ll find Chas in there. He’s a courier out of San Francisco. But as for the New Yorkers, and the guys who were at the original Red Hook Crit, I think they’ve been run out of town by corporate sponsors and ex-pro’s who are looking to relive their former glory. But honestly, when Dave Trimble started RHC the messengers were against it. He did it all to one, make a birthday race and two, remove the ambiguity of winning an alley cat from track-bike street-racing. Trimble’s main gripe (as i’ve been told) is that when two people would come racing to the finish of an alley cat and “tie” the organizer would always just place his friend first. The original folks who raced the Red Hook Crit may have been messengers who did alleycats, but they were familiar with sanctioned racing. In reality a lot of them weren’t even really messengers. That said, here’s a complete contradiction of that last statement and my rundown on a few of the former messengers and Red Hook racers, who still get out there and race:

Neil Bezdek*

Neil obviously won some Red Hook’s. He has a turn (or bend) named after him this year. Neil was the first messenger kid who “made it.” He got signed and raced on the pro team Mountain Khakis. He even left NYC to live in a more cycling and training friendly place at one point. Now he’s back in NYC, working not as a messenger. Neil is considered a hero/legend to messengers who believed they can make it as a pro cyclist. I think he was Dan Chabanov’s hero, although he’d never admit it.

*Neil is injured and won’t be racing 2016’s edition

John-Taki Theodracopulos

It’s debatable whether or not he was even a bonafide messenger, given his rich-kid status, but nonetheless he ran with some of the “mess life” crew and also rode some pretty beautiful bikes in the first couple iterations of the Red Hook Crit. He’s currently living in France, doing I don’t know what. But occasionally I get a glimpse into his and his children’s lives on Instagram and it looks very haute couture.

Crihs Thormann

This “messenger life for life” guy is always on a self-proclaimed comeback year. So I don’t even know what this year has in store for him. Crihs, and no i’m not spelling that incorrectly, has been riding well in the NYC Alley Cat scene, but seems to be unable to clinch that Monster Track title that's emblematic of his younger days. The Skull Vodka probably has something to do with that. We’ll see if he even qualifies.

John Kniesly (AKA K-Tel)

K-Tell was the next big thing. In the early years he was always a favorite. At the second RHC he was third, at the the third RHC was second. It looked like he would be the guy to dethrone Dan Chabanov (he even placed 4th in the first RHC-Milan), but then it never happened. K-Tell is like a super nice guy who was always fast and fit. And like, he was/is fast, but not p-r-o fast. I don’t even know if he was a messenger actually. Really, he’s just a smiley dude. He will be at Red Hook Crit 2016.

Alfred Bobe Jr

Like the other guys, this legend has been at Red Hook since race numero uno. Alfred is a legitimate messenger. Like OG, the real deal and he’s been doing it before it was cool to be a glorified mailman on a bike. Or I take that back because I bet as soon as Alfred started messengering, messengers became cool. He’s just one of those guys. He’s probably has some massive collection or Alley Cat prize shwag locked away in a vault, he’s won them all umpteenth times, but I’ll go out on a limb and say he’ll never win a Red Hook. Alfred was born in the Bronx, raised in Puerto Rico, for the past 20 years has lived in Brooklyn and has three kids who are gunning to be faster than him. Yeah Alfred isn’t a spring chicken, but he’s almost fast as one.

Cooper Ray

Oh Cooper. If Cooper hasn’t pissed you off in a race, you probably haven’t met Cooper. Cooper is a Manhattanite, born and raised in the city, and a full-time messenger. Basically, this kid knows his way around New York. It’s why he’s ruffled the feathers of a few of the people on this list when he began racing (and winning) Alley Cats. Cooper is currently growing out his hair to Fabio-Romance-Novel-Like lengths. His best finish at a Red Hook Crit was in the first iteration where he snagged fourth. This was never to be repeated.

Dan Chabanov

This 3x Red Hook Crit winner, former messenger and star in the cinematic masterpiece fixed-gear movie Empire [directed by Crihs Thormann and Luke Stiles (who isn’t a messenger, but was like Daddy Warbucks to messengers and raced the first couple Red Hook’s)] no longer messengers. Dan stopped messengering a year or two after he left the alley-cat race scene when he decided to devote everything to a career in road racing. But now, just like those alley cats of his past, he rarely partakes in road races. He doesn’t even live in NYC anymore. Dan flipped his life upside down for the lovely Krista and became a Philly boy. You can still catch him on the cyclocross and mountain bike scene. Dan is like this legend of Red Hook. He won three back-to-back races in Brooklyn and then dropped the mic. This year he’ll be running the Red Hook 5k. Some say he’s only running because he’s scared to lose. Fear is powerful.

So let’s recap: What’s happened to Red Hook and its sub-culture status? Well Red Hook got fast, then it got faster, and then it got corporate sponsors, global recognition and as fast as a messenger might be at getting a triple-rush package across town, it’s never going to be as fast as professional (or former professional) cyclist who spend their days alternating between training or properly recovering in their normatec boots. It looks like when it comes to Red Hook smashing beers, chasing those beers with whiskey shots and then finding the best bodega bacon-egg and cheese (with ketchup, salt and pepper) sandwich at 4am, no longer can produce a victor.

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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