The press release read: “Imagine if Rockstar Games, the team behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise, produced a cycling game. Now imagine if that cycling game was in real life. On London’s streets”. Needless to say, it pricked our imagination.
The Red Hook Crit (short for criterium) is coming to London tomorrow — presenting ordinary members of the public the opportunity to race against pros on what sounds like a hellish circuit. Riders include are a mix of professional road racers, track specialists, bike messengers and urban cyclists.
Also significant is the race's pedigree — hailing from New York's equivalent of Shoreditch — so obviously the race takes place on fixies. With no brakes. The course will be similar to a Monaco Grand Prix circuit featuring chicanes, hairpins and overtaking aplenty. Did we mention there were no brakes?
The sport is already big in its native NYC, as well as in Barcelona and Milan. David Trimble, the man who's made this a reality on the streets of Greenwich, said “Expanding the Red Hook Criterium Championship Series to London — a world-class cycling city — is a dream come true. We are thrilled to be welcomed to the Greenwich Peninsula to host the first Red Hook Crit London in what we hope to become a permanent addition to the Championship Series.”
Places for amateur competitors sold out within the first 10 minutes of going on sale, with competitors from over 25 countries securing their position on the start line. But fear not — you can still watch.
So what is a criterium?
It's a style of road cycle race that takes place on a short circuit — usually closed streets. Due to the fact these circuits have many tight corners, they are generally more exciting than traditional road races as there are more incidents and opportunities to capitalise on other riders’ mistakes. Prizes are often on offer for sprints after a certain number of laps, meaning the action doesn’t all happen at the end.
What can you expect?
The men’s race lasts 26 laps (30km) and the women’s is 20 laps (22.5km). Expect crashes along the way. The racers are hardy creatures and even if half of their skin remains on the road after a tumble, they often get back up and race on. In fact, in a recent stage of the Tour de France, the then Yellow Jersey holder, Fabian Cancellara, cycled 50km to finish the stage after breaking two vertebrae in a pile-up.
Also expect frantic action — this course will test the riders’ ability to hold a line, sprint for the line, and corner — all with a frenetic crowd yelling their support. Cowbells and air horns are optional.
For spectators, food and beer will be available — the latter supplied by local brewery Meantime.
Red Hook Crit takes place on 11 July at Greenwich Peninsula, SE10 0PE. Races begin at 5.30pm, and it's free to watch. More info here.