It’s 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, and what’s been a very rainy spring has broken just in time for an event best described as a cross between a Formula 1 race and a playful reenactment of the The Breakfast Club: the Red Hook Criterium bicycle race, Brooklyn Navy Yard edition.
The first qualifying heat for the nighttime race is underway, winnowing the field from 200 to 100. Nearby, RHC Milano winner Evan Murphy shaves another guy’s head, apparently for laughs rather than aerodynamics. Other riders are all business, warming up on rollers and wearing tri-color Italian flag socks. Some riders are heavily pierced and tattooed, some clean cut with matching Pee-wee Herman skinsuits; one guy has a boombox affixed to his shirt, somehow, bobbing. The preponderance of women are just blazingly hot.
What began in 2008 as an underground race on the cobblestones of Red Hook is now a four-part racing series (Red Hook, Navy Yard, Milan, Barcelona) with big sponsors like Giro, Cinelli and Castelli. True to the “crit” classification, the RHC takes place on a closed-off, short, technical course; specifically, it’s 26 laps around a 1.25km track with sharp corners and sections of cobblestone, not to mention the entirety of the course is very dark except for a few stadium-style lights. What makes the race even more compelling is that competitors ride fixed-gear track bikes with no brakes.
It’s fast, it’s aggressive, and there’s a Belgian waffle truck on-site if you get hungry. In a sport that doesn’t typically lend itself to viewing, the RHC gives riders a thrilling platform and offers an exciting social environment for spectators.