Footnotes From the Road: USA CRITS Speed Week 2013

USA-Crits-Speed-Week-race-report-Chabanov-Murphy-van

Guests Dan Chabanov and Evan Murphy of CRCA/Foundation recall highlights from their road trip in late April to USA CRITS Speed Week, a series of seven races in seven southeastern cities.

Evan: This whole thing started off as a shit show. The night before we’re supposed to leave we get an email saying show up at the van-rental office at 8 a.m. next day. The office is an hour away. The email was sent so late most of our teammates were asleep. Welcome to the Speed Week van. Organizational snafus continued. The next one happens when we decide to book a hotel en route to our first race.

Dan: Alejandro went 20 miles the wrong way to a different hotel than the one I’d booked on my phone.

Evan: You rerouted us, and an hour later we arrived at a hotel that neither of us can even remember.

Dan: All the hotels have just blended in my mind into one. Shitty bed. Hotel Indigo shines as a beacon of joy.

Evan: I’d heard about this notorious hotel outside Savannah, I think, the Rice Planters Inn, from the previous year’s racers. Something about fireworks in the lobby and partying. And I mean, sure, it was a very shitty hotel. The TV was held onto the wall with, like, one screw. The towels were nasty. The walls had mold.

The most hilarious thing about Planters was how many parking spots SmartStop took up with their team vehicles. They had, like, a van, a trailer, and a Sprinter van. They were parked sideways across at least nine parking spots. We had one 12-seater van with six bikes on the roof, two inside, no decals. And we made it our own with the B.O. and farts of 10 consecutive days spent inside.

Speaking of our van, we rented a brand-new vehicle. It must have had under 400 miles. Perfectly clean.

Dan: We put a lot of fucking miles into it.

Evan: We left permanent bike-racer residue in the seats, and chain grease on the ceiling. But it was our home for 10 days as we traveled in a giant loop from Athens to Atlanta—monsoon—to an island off the southern coast of Georgia, back up to Greenville, as far north as Belmont, back to Sandy Springs—Atlanta, basically—and then back to NYC.

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So Dan got sick. He got really fucking sick, and I was his roommate the whole trip.

Dan: By choice.

Evan: After the second race, in Roswell, where it poured, he was bed-ridden for the next three days. Honestly, I thought he was being a pussy, but he pretty much couldn’t walk.

Dan: It was a blessing in disguise for you. I just sat around the hotel watching Mad Men for two days straight.

Evan: I got to double up and race my first pro crits.

Dan: Inevitably, other people ended up getting sick, but I want to point out that Alejandro got into the van in New York sick. We shouldn’t have even let him get into the van.

Evan: So I got sick, then Jesse got sick, and so did Nick. But that was the week after Speed Week.

Dan: We should talk about how you lose to children, though.

Evan: I pretty much went down to Speed Week to gobble up points for my cat-one upgrade, and it worked out pretty great. I won four races, podiumed two, and got to race two pro crits, finishing both, one in the money.

Dan: But the one race where you had difficulty, you got beat by two kids who can’t even drink, and one of them immediately after beating you got in the junior field and soloed away for the win. Of course this sucked because we had to wait around for an hour to do the podium.

Evan: One of the juniors who beat me explained how he had to get back home to finish up high school, and the other was heading to Russia or some shit for, like, some insane stage race. I’m 25 years old.

Dan: I mean, I feel like we can’t not mention the Ruby Tuesday Thing.

Evan: OK, Nick Keough had the Ruby Tuesday Thing figured out. Basically you show up, immediately get a plate of salad. Of course this is the south, so by salad I actually mean some greens, pasta, bacon crumbs—

Dan: Those crack croutons!

Evan: Then you order anything that comes with salad. Right before your actual meal comes, you get up for another plate of salad. By this point you are actually full from the first plate. So you finish maybe half this plate of salad and ask for a to-go box, pretty much right when your food gets to the table. This way you have half a plate of salad and a full meal going back with you to the hotel room.

Dan: It’s an unadvertised two-for-one meal deal.

I feel like we have to touch on the fact that the weather was just shitty all week. This was my second Speed Week, so I was expecting to come home sunburned, and I think I got paler on that trip.

Evan: Yeah, it rained most of the time, but was still hot and muggy.

Dan: I know you weren’t there for Belmont, but the mayor of the town got on stage before the event and was like, You guys represent healthy lifestyle. Which is bullshit. We all looked around at one another like, What?

We sit around in hotel rooms to the point of atrophy, watching TV and eating garbage. And then go race, where we’re basically “exercising” to the point of vomiting.

There’s nothing healthy about this lifestyle.

…..

Photos by Dan Chabanov, on Tumblr at bonedeth.

On Twitter: @danchabanov, @rualrite

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Bezdek Wins Record-Breaking Fourth Red Hook Criterium at Brooklyn Navy Yard

Bezdek Wins Red Hook Criterium Navy Yard in Brooklyn

Neil Bezdek defended his title as the Red Hook Criterium champion by winning the inaugural Red Hook Crit Navy Yard race on Saturday night before a large crowd.

Bezdek, 28, out-sprinted lone breakaway companion Kyle Murphy after 45 minutes and 26 laps of racing on a technical, 1.25-kilometer course.

About a minute later Marc Marino won the sprint for third ahead of break companions Alexander Barouh and Cooper Ray, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“Just look around,” Bezdek told cyclingreporter after winning. “Bike racing really doesn’t get any more fun than this.

“This venue, this race, everything about it. It’s just my favorite. It’s so good. I’m really happy.”

One hundred riders started the Red Hook Crit but only five officially finished the race, which saw the fastest riders create unclosable gaps early on the technical, narrow course that featured multiple turns and a cobblestoned chicane.

There were multiple crashes during the race and in the qualifying heats held earlier in the evening, the most serious of which sent a rider to the hospital in an ambulance. He was reported to be in stable condition but official details were unavailable.

As most of the pack struggled to make it to the front in what was effectively a high-speed, single-file race, early leaders Bezdek and Murphy made quick work of building an insurmountable lead.

“We saw that the course was really narrow and that it would be hard to pass each other, so if you’re at the front you just try to stay at the front,” Bezdek said. “Try to take turns with someone, then jumping past them at the finish.

“I wanted to partly put on a good show, but I figured if Kyle [Murphy] and I attacked and counterattacked, we’d kind of tire each other out.

“Last lap Kyle was sitting on my wheel and he wouldn’t come through, so I just slowed down a lot so he had less of a benefit from drafting, and when you’re going that slow it’s just a matter of positioning.

“Kyle is really fit. I’ve got a better kick, though. So I was actually happy that it came down to the last few hundred meters.

“We kind of crept around, and then on the cobbles I just jumped as hard as I could and stuck it.

“Before the last couple corners, I just jumped as hard as I could and he couldn’t come around.”

King of Red Hook Crit

It was Bezdek’s fourth victory in the Red Hook Criterium.

With his successful defense on Saturday, Bezdek became the winningest racer of the Red Hook Criterium, surpassing three-time winner Dan Chabanov, who was caught up in a crash early in the race and pulled out of the event.

Asked how his record-breaking fourth victory in the Red Hook Crit felt compared to his previous three, Bezdek told cyclingreporter that “it just gets better every time.”

Another race favorite, Evan Murphy, said that he had flatted early in the race and had no choice but to abandon.

Murphy had finished second to Bezdek in May’s Red Hook Crit and was seen as the heavy favorite after having finished strongly in Sunday’s Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic, a UCI 1.2 race.

Bezdek now leads the four-race Red Hook Criterium Championship Series with two races to go this year, one in Barcelona in August and the other in Milan in October.

Full results and lap times available here.

—Words, videos, and photos by Daniel McMahon for cyclingreporter.com

Related: Bezdek’s top tips for winning sprint finishes

Related: Bezdek Wins Red Hook Crit 2013 at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

Related slideshow by cyclingreporter for VeloNews.com: A short history of the Red Hook Crit



Red Hook Criterium Brooklyn Navy Yard bike race Saturday, June 8, 2013
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
IMG_5458Bezdek Wins Brooklyn Navy Yard Red Hook Criterium
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AC PHILLY

philly cycling classic 2013 road trip

My face was inches from the window and I felt the heat pushing in from outside and we had the AC on in the apartment too but only on low overnight so it wasn’t that cool inside anymore, and the warm air pressed up against the windows, which would normally be kind of nice but it felt lousy, really, because it was too warm and too strong. I leaned my forehead against the pane and looked down on the street and sidewalks three floors below us and people were walking by in shorts and T-shirts and flip-flops pretty slowly in the heat. As they say it was downright oppressive heat and the kind that made you just want to take a long, cool shower and crank the AC or just lie back in bed and maybe sip an iced tea and not move around. I was born in Chicago but my parents were born and raised in Ireland and lived there till they were in their twenties, so I’m one-hundred percent Irish, I’m told, and have fair, freckled skin and I don’t at all thrive in the heat and even though Chicago gets hot and humid I never really got used to it and don’t believe you really can. I like to race in the cool air and while I don’t like rain a lot I don’t mind it that much. If it were up to me it’d be sixty-five all the time and there’d be a gentle sun high up in the sky but not imposing itself and melting men to butter. The last time I raced the Harlem criterium in New York City my category-three race was at about noon, nearly the hottest time of day. That was very, very hot, the kind of heat where, if you’re like me, you’re going from shade to shade to shade and seeking new places to keep adding sunscreen, seventy-five SPF, and yet I just had to do the race as I was in shape and getting results that season and even won once. But though I rode well it was just a shit show and I got crashed as a guy in front of me went down in a turn late in the race. He lost his front wheel and, as they say, I had nowhere to go. Funny thing, but I flipped completely straight over the bars and landed on my feet and I thought that was funny because I’d never have had the graceful athleticism to do that on purpose. Actually as I landed I skidded on my shiny white DMTs as if I was water skiing, magically gliding on top of the warm, soft tarmac on my plastic cleats and carbon-fiber soles. I landed perfectly upright, took a nanosecond to try to process what had just happened, then picked up my bike and got back in the race using my free lap and moved up to the top twenty among the remaining forty or so riders, but in the final turn there was another big crash and a lot of guys went down and were bleeding and a bike flew into the crowd, sending a young boy to the hospital, and as they say I had to grab a bunch of brakes and that was the end of the day, thanks a lot for coming out.

Which has nothing to do with anything really because on this warm day we decided to drive down to Philly to see a race, a big pro race, and we weren’t going to skip it now just because it was ninety degrees and humid and uncomfortable. I walked two blocks and got the car as L waited in the shade of our brownstone on the stoop and I made quick work of opening the doors and getting the AC going full blast. I sat in the car half-assed with one foot on the brake pedal and one on the street as I waited for the artificially cooled air to get actually cold. I was happy I had an all-white car and that I was basically as cool as could be considering the cloudless sunny sky and sultriness about. I smiled for a second recalling how L had laughed because I’d packed an umbrella to protect myself from the sun but as it’s a practice in some countries I carried on and packed it. As we rolled out of Brooklyn to the expressway we saw people slow-walking up the long, dragging slopes of our neighborhood. Fortunately the expressway was kind to us and we made quick work of getting out of New York City and onto the New Jersey Turnpike and toward Philly, drinking water and iced coffee and not eating anything because it was just too uncomfortable even with the AC. It’s like we knew how hot it was outside and that was enough in itself. The hazy smog was behind us for the most part now. I didn’t think about the heat and just stared ahead and we talked about nothing in particular.

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There was no parking in Philly. I mean, there was no parking in Philly. We didn’t find anything even resembling a tight spot. I half-expected it yet didn’t plan for it, and I don’t really know Philly save for a handful of previous trips, like the time I needed a last-minute passport renewal and had to drive from New York City to Philly a day before a trip to Mexico because the New York City office was fully booked seeing folks in my position. Mexico, by the way, was also very, very hot, but a different hot and not quite as unpleasant as New York City hot. And then there were the couple times I saw this same Philly bike race, the last time being two thousand and five. But luck smiled on us a second time and we found a guy in cutoffs smoking a cigarette in the heat waving a handmade sign that read $10 PARKING in a half-filled lot, so we got in there and what a relief. We were only a couple blocks from the course, he said, and just a half-mile or less from the foot of the Manayunk Wall. After a quick eyeing of the total spots we figured he’d clear four, maybe five hundred just for holding that sign in the sun, which didn’t seem to bother him. As with other characters I’ve met who live close to the street I caught in the space of a few seconds that he didn’t care to talk much and was direct and not impolite but letting you know with his tone and movements he was already a couple steps ahead of you. I put a crisp twenty in his hand and said thanks and he said thank you, sir, emphasizing all three words. L, who had never been to Philly, pointed out his backup back of menthols propped up on the construction horse that was a makeshift gate, and his tattoos, and for us he was kind of the personification of Philly, but we laughed at that stupid idea.

I’d volunteered to wear the backpack with our little blanket and bottles of water and sunscreen and umbrella, the made-fun-of umbrella, and two minutes out of the AC my back was moist from the pack against my shirt and I felt the sunscreen begin to run greasy on my hands as it mixed with body sweat on my neck and cap. The heat was cat, as the Irish, real, Donegal Irish, like to say, meaning catastrophic. It wasn’t serious, not really, for L as much as it was for me. Her olive skin tans dark and she said she didn’t mind the heat that much as long as we had water and maybe some frozen yogurt or something cold. Once down the block onto the course we navigated through a packed crowd on the sidewalk where people were looking happy enough to be out on a Sunday but uncomfortable under the blanket of thick, moist heat. It was palpable, yes, palpable, as we walked and brushed up against people and tried inelegantly to pass one another. After a couple blocks of crowds we came upon a deli and stopped for more water and iced coffees and heroes. They had AC on but it almost didn’t feel like it and it was such heavy air. Times like that you feel bad AC is worse than no AC. Better to be in the real heat than in not that cool. But soon we were gone and took our orders to go and walk toward the Wall. It was clearly a college-bar strip that we’d been walking along, we figured, and it was not just a day for the bike but clearly a hot, sunny day for everyone to get tight. There is nothing worse than getting tight in the hot sunshine early in the day à la Johnny Cash.

Once near the foot of the Wall we walked under some shade where the riders would have to get tight themselves and somehow beat physics and cram through the chicane that does a right then a left in the shade before going up out into the sun and on the hill. On the first few laps if you weren’t in the top ten or twenty riders you were fucked and had to more or less stop and make your way through the stoppage and start up again on the very foot of the climb from a standstill. The thought somehow made the heat less serious, for a moment. Many guys’ races would end in the chicane depending on how close to the front they positioned themselves.

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It was just before noon and we began walking slowly in the heat up the Wall and L was already dropping me, even though she was walking slow. The crowds were not out in numbers on the lower parts of the climb, not yet, but there were some folks already out on their tiny front spaces of lawn, or concrete, sitting on plastic chairs and drinking beer and water. Nobody was grilling it was that hot. It was over ninety now and there wasn’t any wind at all nor a cloud but then I realized it felt extra hot because it was the first day of real heat of the year, at least that I had really been out in, and I wasn’t even doing anything except ascending a little hill at a snail’s pace. When we came to the halfway point we saw a cat on a leash and some cops leaning against their motorbikes in the shade, but we didn’t see any more shops at this point and we talked about how that meant if there were not shops at the top of the hill one of us would have to come back down in the heat to get more water as were going to be several hours in the direct sunshine. That was a dreadful thought and we kind of laughed it off without expending the energy to actually laugh. It was too warm. We stopped to appreciate the steep ramps the riders would labor on and which someone had said were seventeen percent, and in the ramps we noticed there was already some sealant in the potholes and in the cracks of the road that was melting. Twenty-three-millimeter tires would fit in the gooey grooves nicely but the riders would likely be moving too fast for that to happen, probably.

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 philly cycling classic 2013 road trip 4

The first time up the climb big Tom Zirbel was attacking with another rider who I didn’t know and they got a gap and would hold it for the next couple of laps or so. Big Tom was really big and heavy and to see him climb the pretty steep Wall in the heat on his massive bike was impressive. His diamond-cut calves almost looked fake they were so shiny with massage oil and sunscreen and sweat and water or whatever it was that gave them their luster. In the past he’d gotten busted for allegedly doping and after he reluctantly accepted a ban from racing for a while. He once told me, on coming back to racing, that he didn’t live in fear and slept well, that he had this new relationship with the sport and didn’t trust it completely but still got enjoyment out of it and still loved racing his bike, and even loved training and transforming his body into something different, but at the same time he knew it could be taken away at any moment.

Then the pack, or what was left of the pack, labored up to the summit of the climb with the lead riders looking aggressive and the farther you looked the lesser riders looking pissed off frankly. They passed quickly enough and then the cars and then the surprising sight of Jeremy Powers. He was riding way back, maybe a minute or two down, behind the cars, and it was unclear why the one-time national cyclocross champ was so far down on the first lap, but later we heard there had been a crash or two or three and we figured that’s why he was so behind like he was. His arms and giant legs were slathered in a white film of sunscreen just like ours.

 philly cycling classic 2013 road trip 6

 philly cycling classic 2013 road trip 6

I don’t remember what lap it was but as L lay on a patch of grass just near the finish line atop the Wall and as I stood watching the racers and the crowds the clouds moved in and the warm air suddenly became cooler and it started to lightly rain. The respite from the heat made it feel like a new day had started. I felt new, yes, new. With renewed energy I jumped up on a concrete column to better see the riders coming up on the next lap and there was a breakaway and an even more exploded pack of riders with lots of stragglers pedaling up in twos and threes and many guys riding alone as the crowd sweated too and cheered. There was much more racing to go still but already many riders’ races were over, and I thought of the chicane and the heat earlier that was now gone for the most part and racing in Harlem.

As the race drew to a close there were riders attacking and riders chasing and in the end it came down to a group catching another group and then a big finale up the climb. By then the heat had returned, the cat heat, and we were well back to feeling rather miserable but only in a way as the racing was very good and the race was going to finish on the climb unlike in years past when it ended down in the town and on the boring flat. Finally, in the heat and after five hours of racing or something like that, a rider in blue streaked up the climb and threw his hands up in the air and as they say there was no in the photo meaning he won solo. We watched for a little after the race as the riders labored in finally to fake-fall off their bikes, some of them, onto the hot ground and pour water over their heads. The winner hugged his teammates and it looked like he meant it. Lanky rider Phil Gaimon, finishing quite down behind the winner, told us some of the amateur riders in the race were probably not the world’s greatest bike-handlers and some guys crashed because they were looking at hot babes jogging on the side of the road and that anyway overall it was a great day of racing but too bad the climb was only a two-minute effort as he’d have maybe had a better result if it had been longer. Funny, we thought a couple days later, when we learned he had signed with a WorldTour team to go race in Europe where he can go up very long and very hard climbs that are much longer than two minutes.

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We found a non-college bar that was closed but they let us in anyway as the staffers were having after-work drinks and doing shots of something and the AC was very cold. We ordered their coldest beers in cans so they’d be extra cold and we drank a lot of water too in between the beers. By the time we left for the hotel the sun had set and it wasn’t cat hot anymore.

—Words, snaps by Daniel McMahon

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