I’ve got to admit that I’d been nervous about this day for a long time and after sleepless nights thinking “what have I forgotten?”, “what if something goes horribly wrong?” I was happy to get to this day and have it pass. For better or for worse everything had led up to this.
After a quick briefing with the amazing volunteer marshals (who I can’t thank enough for giving up their time to help the race go ahead) and a slightly longer rider and safety briefing to the racers meant we could get underway.
The format was 2 women’s qualifiers and 4 men’s. Everyone would go through to their main race but the top 5 from each qualifier would get a grid position at the front.
The first qualifying group was mostly women from NLTCBMBC, Velociposse and The 5th Floor as well as Team Full Denim Jacket, KYCU Velo and some unattached riders. The pace was high from the start and our very own Jess ended up taking the win with Aoife, Lina, Adeline and Kris not far behind.
Q2 saw the UK debut of Why Be Normal? and they’d bought some heavy hitters to the race. Unfortunately, this qualifying group suffered after not all the entrants made it to the race and so there were only 8 on the line. WBN? dictated the race throughout and crossed the line together with Stef Lai taking the remaining grid place for the final.
Q3 saw the start of the men’s races and the first group had 26 riders battling for the top 5 spots. The group was mainly NLTCBMBC, Defico and Team Full Denim Jacket riders so a lot of riders knew each others strengths and weaknesses. FDJ’s Dan Cooper took the win followed by Daniel Mateus of KYCU Velo and Matt Payne (also FDJ). Thunder Cat Dimi took 4th and Marlon of Defico took 5th.
The fourth group saw a mix of East London Fixed, Nvayrk and Das Rad Klub along with some less familiar riders so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Owen Blandy (ELF) sprinted away to the win followed by Rob Borek of DRK. Mads Peterson, Dan Jay-Webster, Peter Janak and Federico Motta finished in a very tight bunch so were all given a place at the front of the final race.
The final qualifying group was really strong with several experienced fixed crit riders involved including our good friend Michael who now races for Nvayrk, as well as riders from The 5th Floor and Disorderly Habits teams and Dave Noakes of State Bicycle Co. The pace blew apart the field early on. Paul Vanotti beat Alex Blomley and George Garnier for the win with Louis Legon holding off Michael for fourth.
For the main races there were primes at the end of the first lap, the sixth lap (6.66km) and the 12th lap, as well as a chief aggressor award. The 20 strong women’s field lined up with the top 10 from the qualifiers at the front. A rolling start with a one lap procession was followed by 20 laps.
Team Why Be Normal? attacked from the starting gun (lovingly fired by John Mack on loan from Rollapaluza). Leeana showed her sprinting prowess and won herself a full Morvelo Kit from the first prime. Jo Smith took the second prime and earned Dark Arts Coffee goods. A two woman break started with Jo and Corrine working together well and Corrine ended up winning The Pizza Prime from Yard Sale Pizza.
Aoife Doherty from The 5th Floor decided to try and bridge the gap with Hayley Edwards who unfortunately got a puncture as she was about to make the junction to the leaders and her race was over early.
The pack started to close them down with a lot of work on the front from Jess Morgan and Adeline Moreau. With two laps to go it looked as though they might be able to catch the leaders but they never quite made it. Jo Smith had the speed in the sprint ahead of Corrine and Aoife came in a strong 3rd after her mid race efforts.
Wow. 79 riders lined up to race looked epic. We’d sold all 100 place but unfortunately not everyone made it on the day. It was a great sight seeing them all roll round in formation on the procession lap. The men’s race was set for 26 laps with the prime laps the same as the women’s race.
The gun misfired (user error, John) at the start of the race but the guys knew what they were doing and soon the field was completely blown apart by the pace set by the lead group of just under 20 riders. If you missed that move you missed the race, that’s how brutal it was. Paul Vanotti sprinted to the first lap prime and bagged a full Morvelo kit for his efforts. The pace didn’t let up and the lead group showed their class, riders were in danger of getting lapped early on. Everyone was removed before being lapped to avoid any confusion and potential for accidents.
Owen Blandy tried a long attack but just before The 666 Prime was about to be contested he got passed by a man who obviously loves to win all the free stuff, Paul Vanotti, as he also took home the Dark Arts Coffee prizes! Ben Flower from East London Fixed and Max Geddes from Full Denim Jacket both found themselves in no mans land but put up a valient effort.
Soon it was time for the Pizza Prime. Was Paul Vanotti hungry? Was he a pizza fan? Probably yes for both, but Dan Cooper decided he was hungrier and he decided to go for it, putting an end to a possible clean sweep for Vanotti.
Soon it was just the big hitters fighting to get in position leading up to the final laps. An incident that went unseen around the far side of the course led to Peter Janak retiring early but the race continued. There was some jostling for position at the start of the last lap that led to Dan Cooper doing some impromptu cyclocross and ending his race.
As they came round the last corner Vanotti with Alex Blomley and George Garnier of The 5th Floor battled it out for the podium places. Vanotti took the win followed by Garnier then Blomley. The rest of the group fought for the minor places but all of them can be proud of their efforts in a fast paced and competitive final.
I want to take this chance again to thank everyone that came for making it a special day. Thank you to the racers for putting on a great show and riding fairly with each other no matter what ability level you’re currently at. I hope you’ll be back for more soon. I’d like to thank the people that came down to watch, you created a great atmosphere that really inspired the racers and no one did anything stupid (or I’ve not heard of anything stupid yet). And finally, I’d like to thank the volunteers and everyone that helped me through the day. I don’t know what I’d have done without you, you guys rock.
Time for a rest. Cheers.
The perfect weather was a good omen and by the time we got to the Redbridge Cycling Centre there must have already been 200 people. An amazing turn out for a very niche event that is all too rare in the UK.
I was in the first qualifying group, the top 5 would get a grid position in the main race so everyone wanted to win.
Going in to the final lap and I got myself a perfect position just behind Marlon from Defi Collective. He looked keen for the sprint but as were flying into the last corner, he overcooked it, his pedal struck the ground and I had to go around him. 3 other riders dived down the inside and started the sprint. I nearly managed to catch them and managed 4th.
In between the qualification and main race there was time to have coffee, cake, a sit on the grass and catch up with some people I haden’t seen for a long while. The women’s race was pretty exciting to watch. I had a quick warm up and headed to the start of the men’s final.
We took our positions, head honcho Rob told us not too fall of, then the neutralised lap was started. Racing began on the second lap with the start of a gun.
Attacks were coming from left, right and centre and very soon there was a prime lap. I was too far back to contest it and some dodgy riding from people switching lines made it harder to move up the group. A few people came off the racing line and ended up on the grass but no one fell off, so as far as I’m concerned there was no crashes.
I went for the final prime and almost had it but got overtaken 5 meters before the line by the Paul Vanotti (Disorderly Habits) who took the first prime and won overall. After that was 5 laps to go and the pace became electric.
Just before the bell the group slowed down as people sat up in anticipation of the bunch sprint. There was only about 20 people left in the race by this point. I decided it was a great time to attack, so I went without looking back, just all out, thinking “I can do it”. But with two turns to go I looked back - the group was catching and my attack was neutralised.
I got into the group and pushed everything leftover in the sprint, but there wasn’t much in my legs after the earlier attack. I ended up 12th. Not what I was hoping for, but it is what is.
All in all it was an amazing event, very well organised and enjoyed by everyone I spoke to during the day.
Big up Rob, all the volunteers, all of the NLTCBMBMC, racers, sponsors, spectators and staff at Redbridge cycling centre.
Lining up for the qualifying race I was nervous as I hadn’t done much training over the previous few weeks but seeing friendly faces around gave me comfort. To ride with the women you know and respect takes a lot of the hollow-stomached fear out of racing because you’re happy to see them do well too. For the neutral laps I decided to ride on the front as a sort of NLTCBMBC flag standard, proud to show what we’d achieved in making this crit come to life. By the third lap, grinding into the slight uphill with a face full of headwind, I regretted this idiotic idea.
A few laps in there was a whoosh as Toto from Full Denim Jacket launched a huge attack. Damn, I love that girl’s spice! Me and the 5th Girls chased it down and the pack continued at pace. A couple more digs were reeled in and as it came to the last lap Toto went for another attack, fantastic lunatic that she is. Aoife of 5th Floor followed and I went too.
I’d got used to the course by this point and decided to take advantage of the slight downhill after the final hairpin to go on an early attack for the line rather than let the rest of the group catch up for a bunch sprint. My lower gearing and stiff new Cinelli frame meant I pinged off the front like an elastic band, legs spinning almost out of control. Head down, I knew the chase was on behind and expected to hear the sound of wheels overtaking me any second, but as I got closer and closer to the finish I was still alone. Daring a glance behind me I realised I was comfortably in the lead and was about to win. Yes, it was a qualifier, but screw you, it felt good.
I knew the women’s final would be tough. Why Be Normal? had turned up en masse and they meant business, bringing their unforgiving Red Hook Crit team tactics to the fray. They launched attack after attack, sending breaks up the road and forcing the rest of us to work. I spent a lot of energy on the front and typically, the moment I fell back a few spots to recover was when Aoife went on the attack and bridged across to the break. Bloody amazing effort like, but DAMN HER.
Because with two WBN? and a 5th Floor in the break, that meant team mate Adeline stopped working in the bunch, leaving just me and Lina from Velociposse to take turns slogging into the headwind to try and catch them. As the laps counted down the breakaway in front got closer and closer…then further and further away as my legs started to feel heavy. Terminally heavy.
Suddenly with a few laps to go my NLTCBMBC teammate Kris went out on a brazen attack, and the hitherto dead weight WBN? rider Leeana, was forced to chase her. Ha, how do you like them apples! Relieved, I managed to recover while Leeana chased down Kris. Then we finally got to one lap to go (finally – for the last five laps all I had been thinking about was how horrendously dry my mouth was and how nice a drink would be) and Stef, riding for Brixton CC, who had been meekly sitting in the group for most of the race, stormed past EVERYONE in a flash of rasta colours and got herself a tidy gap.
I had to restrain myself from cheering at this point because it was such a bold move. Again Leeana of WBN? took charge of the chase. Approaching the final hairpin I wondered if I could pull off the same early attack again. All hope of catching the break had dissipated by this point, but my aim for this race was to get a top 5 and that was still in my grasp.
I knew I’d have to go all out to beat the girls left in the group, which contained many strong finishers, so I took my chance and on the slight downhill I kicked again, instantly catapulting straight past Stef and Leeana. Legs spinning so fast my front wheel was bouncing off the ground (hitting a maximum cadence of 136rpm if you must know) this time I didn’t look around or listen for wheels approaching. I just spun my little legs as fast as I could, staring at the line, lungs burning, face all sorts of ugly. And I reached the line first. Well. Fourth.
1st Jo Smith - Why Be Normal?
2nd Corrine Price - Why Be Normal?
3rd Aoife Doherty - The 5th Floor
Women's Prime Laps
1 Leeana Kate James - Why Be Normal?
2 Jo Smith - Why Be Normal?
3 Corrine Price - Why Be Normal?
Top Attacker - Hayley Edwards - Why Be Normal?
1st Paul Vanotti - Disorderly Habits
2nd George Garnier - The 5th Floor
3rd Alex Blomley - The 5th Floor
Men's Prime Laps
1 Paul Vanotti - Disorderly Habits
2 Paul Vanotti - Disorderly Habits
3 Daniel Cooper - Team Full Denim Jacket
Top Attacker - Owen Blandy - East London Fixed