Speed force: Catch cycling’s version of NASCAR at the Red Hook Crit Saturday

red hook crit
They go fast. via Flickr user Eric Konon

Usually when it comes to packs of speeding lunatics going around and around in circles for hours, you’ve gotta go find New York’s closest NASCAR track (which is upstate in Watkins Glen). Fortunately, you’ve got a free, somewhat similar, bike-based option here this weekend. Want to watch packs of cyclists speed around a street track at upwards of 35mph on brakeless bicycles? Come watch the Red Hook Crit on Saturday.

On Saturday, hundreds of professional bike racers and other serious cyclists will compete in the 8th Annual Red Hook Crit, the world’s premier track bike crit. A crit, or criterium, is a short-course cycle race less than an hour long with multiple laps. Crits are all about speed, not endurance, though it wouldn’t hurt to have a healthy amount of both if you want to win. At the Red Hook Crit, the course is 3/4 mile long, and in the main event, riders must complete 24 laps (men) or 18 laps (women). Racers who get lapped by other entrants are disqualified; sometimes as few as 20 riders make it across the finish line. Racers are required to use fixed gear brakeless track bikes; that, combined with 180-degree hairpin turns, and speeds exceeding 35 mph, mean that the Crit is not without potential dangers.

The Red Hook Crit starts with qualifying races of approximately 40 riders each on Saturday from 12pm – 3:50pm. In the qualifying runs, riders have 20 minutes to perfect individual qualifying lap times; the top 85 continue on to the final event, the Crit itself. Riders who placed in positions 86-150 get a second opportunity in the Last Chance Race at 6pm. The top 10 finishers then advance to the main event. The 2nd Annual Women’s Criterium will be held from 8pm – 8:45pm (though it’s noteworthy to mention that a woman, Kacey Manderfield, won the very first Red Hook Crit competing against men) and the Men’s Criterium 9pm – 9:45pm.

If you want to see the insanity, head to the Red Hook Cruise Terminal (72 Bowne Street), where you can find entrances to the track at the intersection of Ferris and King Streets, as well as Bowne and Imlay Streets. Complimentary bike valet is available for spectators, and like any proper sporting event, you’ll be able to eat and drink well while cheering on the brave souls who dare to ride. Beer will be provided by Brooklyn’s own Sixpoint Bewery for $6/beer, to wash down delicious fare from a number of food trucks (see the site for full listing). And if you hadn’t had enough excitement for one day, there will also be an after party with $10 admission kicking off at 11pm at Hometown BBQ (454 Van Brunt Street), featuring the music of Chances with Wolves.

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