Words and photos by Julia Baranovska
Riding with no breaks and no gears is challenging enough when it comes to the Red Hook Crit series, though the Saturday’s downpours tested athlete’s resilience to their limits.
The third RHC on London’s soil was promising to be a tough fight following last year’s undefeatable win by three-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist, Dani King, ultimately lapping most of the field in a solo ride away.
With this year’s come back, at least two of the bidding Commonwealth 2018 athletes Amy Hill and Megan Chard, followed King’s suit in an attempt to test the Greenwich Peninsulas’ waters. A Welsh [road] Criterium Champion, Beth Taylor, too, showed up at the race making it 16% of British women among the 60 registered.
"The qualifiers were savage. But I’ve raced quite a lot in the rain this year. I did some of the tour series and that was pretty bad [weather], so that was a good practice" - Juliet Elliott
Juliet Elliott, the ASSOS Factory Outlet ambassador, felt determined about the race and shared some valuable advice for those, who just in the beginning of their racing experience Juliet suggested: “Not to shy away from riding and go and get as much practice as you can. And then anything that weather throws at you - you’ve done it before."
Kym Perfetto (Aventon Factory Team) an ex New York City bike messenger felt more than acquainted with the street layout whether it being wet or dry, though showed some misgivings about the competition; “My best skill set is definitely racing among the cars. I made a name for myself through the alleycat racing; But, you know, crit racing is still the skill I feel I’ve yet to master. I feel like I get a hang of it and then pro roadies come in and are so much faster!"
As the athletes aligned to their grid positions all eyes were on Raphaele Lemieux (Team iBike) a Canadian rider just after her Brooklyn debut earlier this year; Eleonore Saraiva (Aventon Factory Team and RHC championship leader) and Dani King.
With the horn announcing the start of the race, Raphaele seemed to linger a second longer clipping into the pedal and was immediately pounded on by Eleonore Saraiva and Dani King. However, by the turn number three Raphaele stamped her authority and raced ahead unchallenged towards her 1st Lap prime.
The second corner of the circuit proved to be particularly slippery with a first crash taking a few riders out on the lap three, resulting in the yellow flag and organisers’ futile attempts to slow down zealous athletes.
A few laps down the line, Dani King’s attempt of a speedy breakaway caused several gaps in the field and visibly pushed the riders into an uncomfortable but relentless pursuit. Nevertheless, Eleonore Saraiva, Carla Nafria (Specialized / Rocket Espresso), Jasmine Dotti (IRD Carrera Squadra Corse), Ash Duban and Raphaele Lemieux continued the chase on Dani King.
By the start of the next lap, King had given up an attempt of a solo ride away and got speedily flocked by the top riders. Meanwhile, Lemieux, once again, worked herself up from the back of the bunch and, with a sudden advance, placed herself at the front of the peloton, securing her second prime of the day - the Dinner prime (half race distance completed).
The pack led a sharp race having swift changes at the front: Tanja Erath (a German rider currently 10th in the overall standings) dominated the race by leading the field 11 times and winning the Top Antagonist prize; whilst Raphaele and Dani King led out at least five times each.
With one lap to go, Raphaele moved up from the 5th position by taking corner 1 on the outside line allowing her to cut back on the exit of turn 2. By half way down of the straight, she was already ahead of the race leaving the chase behind.
Coming out of turn 8, Tanja Erath lost control of her bike slipping onto the tarmac and into a barrier, taking out several riders from the front of the pack. The unfortunate crash created a separating allowing Lemieux, Saraiva, Dotti and Gulick (Deluxe Cycles) for a safe arrival of the first four winners. Emerging from around the corner, Dani King, skilfully avoided the accident and accelerated towards the finish line delivering herself into the 5th position.
Despite a punchy race, there were no significant breakaways throughout the whole of the field; and previously undefeatable Dani King shows a chink in her armour in London's third Red Hook Crit in an undisputed Grand Slam by Canadian rider Raphaele Lemieux.
1st lap (breakfast) prime: Raphaele Lemieux
Halfway (dinner) prime: Raphaele Lemieux
Rockstar Games Top Antagonist: Tanja Erath
1 Raphaele Lemieux (Team iBike)
2 Eleonore Saraiva (Aventon Factory Team)
3 Jasmine Dotti (IRD Carrera Squadra Corse)
4 Colleen Gulick (Deluxe Cycles)
5 Dani King (Unattached)