A flat hits you without warning
London No3 red Hook Crit
When the airplane had landed in Heathrow, Stefan Schäfer was deeply confident. He had won the classical Red Hook Crit in Brooklyn just six weeks ago. At the age of thirty-one he was an experienced rider, holding some titles like the German Championship as a motor paced racer. No need to worry.
During the weekend to come the third edition of the London Red Hook Crit should take over the Greenwich Peninsula. Some people were keen on transforming this place into London’s emerging cultural district.
But the riders who had just registered for the competition didn’t care so much about the visionary ideas of the city fathers. They checked their bike chains, listened to the sweet and sleek clicking of the ball bearings and soaked in the sweet smell of chain grease.
Stefan Schäfer looked up into the sky and thought about the weather. Would it start raining at the crucial moments? Would the track surface get slippery? There were so many things people couldn’t control. Though the athlete from Cottbus was thoroughly fit and one of the odds-on favorites he still kept thinking modestly. He knew for sure: The London circuit was dramatically faster than the course used in Brooklyn. There were eight turns but no hairpin corners on a lap of 950 meters. In addition to that the circuit had to be run reverse from last year.
Some riders liked this change. Changing things from year to year might be helpful to keep everyone on their toes. That’s what they thought. Stefan didn’t share their opinion. On the other hand he was looking forward to get into touch with the spectators. Beyond doubt; the riders were the heroes. But to cheer them on the crowd was appropriately equipped with Rockstar Games cowbells. They made a lot of noise and looked like tiny handbags without a bottom.
Some people might find it hard to understand why grown up people ride bikes without brakes. Isn’t that crazy? No idea!
But at least God must love crazy people. You know why? He made so many of them. That’s a quote from Rambo III. The movie was released in 1988. In those days some of the riders of the Red Hook Crit London No3 had not even been born. Exactly twenty years later the Red Hook Crit story began as a birthday party for David Trimble in 2008. The race in honor of the American bike enthusiast was held with no sponsors, prizes, promotion or permits. Despite only a few dozen cyclists and a handful of spectators the atmosphere must have been smashing. Today fixed gear cycling is one of the fastest growing cycling disciplines of recent years. And when it comes to the Red Hook events it’s not exclusively all about cycling. You can even buy socks and water bottles with the red hook of a crane on them.
While men have traditionally dominated the cycling scene, the Red Hook Crit is playing an important role in elevating the women’s field. Lena Vogl rides for the Maloja Pusbikers from Bavaria, Germany. She rides for the love of the sport. She wants to ride differently. She want to revive and revolutionize the sport. It’s about inspiration. Also due to this philosophy the 21 year old got a honorable fourth place on RHC London No3. Though being called insane the female riders like this racing format for its inclusiveness. Everyone is invited to the party.
Before the finals had started it had begun to rain. Just enough rain to make the track a little slippery. The cowbells were ringing and the crowd was yelling when Stefan focused his eyes on the back wheel of the bike he wanted to pass. Back wheel, front wheel. First lap, left turn, right turn. That was not as easy as it looked like. And the cowbells were still encouraging the riders not to give up or give in. Stefan started a breakaway during lap two. The motivation pushed him forward while the pain almost killed him. And the bells were still ringing and the people yelling with a bottle of cool beer in their hands.
The flat didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t make an appointment either. It was just there, without warning. When Stefan got the flat he was disappointed and sad. But he was not desperate, because he had learned one thing over the years: If you’re not enough without a title, you’ll never be enough with one.
He was disqualified and didn’t find himself on the podium. He found his name on list for men’s final results: 96 Stefan Schäfer Specialized/Rocket Espresso.
The cowbells didn’t stop ringing and Stefan congratulated Filippo Fortin and Raphaele Lemieux on their victory.
On his way to the airport Stefan Schäfer knew that he looked forward to go to Barcelona for the fifth edition of the Red Hook Crit and for the love of cycling.