Adventures of ELF Huez* – New York edition
By Owen Blandy
All pictures by Luke Atkinson
A second trip to New York for Red Hook Crit for me, but it was my first with a proper race team. 10 of us in total, 7 guys and 3 girls – It was really inspiring to see a group of friends coming together to form a race team. The race and resultant performances were almost redundant in the presence of such a positive team environment.
For 7 of us it was very much business as usual, early morning flights, overweight bike box and shitty airport coffee. But this time we were meeting up with our women’s team; Veronika flying from San Francisco, Johanna from Hamburg and more locally, Brooke from Clapham.
With a new team comes new relationships and new experiences. As race team manager I was slightly apprehensive that it may take time for people to adjust to one another. But almost instantly everyone merged into the same mindset and the ELF team house was a great place to be.
Crit week was in full flow and we were busy traversing the square grid streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Often riding together through traffic before someone would get carried away; The pace would ramp up and we would effectively be racing each other on foreign streets, skimming through traffic, whistling past yellow taxis and over American size potholes!.
We spent Thursday picking up race numbers at R & A cycles and checking out the pure bike Porn in their shop; Pinarello, Colnago, Specialized, Lightweight, Look and Cipollini to name just a few of the hitters.
And then as we left the shop, none other than Mario Cipollini himself balls in – He may be retired but he still looked as if he could give the RHC peloton a good go!
Following on from our chance encounter with Cipollini we continued onwards through the CRITWEEK agenda. We headed to Prospect Park on Friday morning for some cheeky laps, the park is in Brooklyn and is New York’s equivalent to London’s Regents Park. Arguably better in fact as it’s near completely traffic free. We weren’t the only ones there. Cipollini was leading a morning laps session and the turnout was around 200 at least. Racers , roadies, messengers and random commuters. It was a fantastic morning with the sun shining down as the colourful peloton zoomed around the park.
Another quick stop to Magnolia Rosa bike shop for both coffee and to pick up her brand spanking new Custom Bell Zephyr Helmets. Thanks you so much guys, they look awesome.
For the all fun that was had over the last few days, it was nearly race day and I could tell that the team were beginning to focus.
Friday night was spent tuning bikes up, getting kit packed up and the ELF masterchef contest of who could cook the best packed lunch!
Highlights included below with Recipes to follow…
Ben Flower – Fusilli Pasta with Avocado
Matt Payne – a classic spaghetti Bolognese (Cooked at breakfast time)
Brooke Phillips – Roasted Butternut Squash
Edgars Az – 4 Pastrami Sandwiches (1 of which was eaten)
On to Race day
We cruised down to the race area early through lovely sunshine and in a relaxed mood. Once there, everyone started busying themselves by setting up camp and getting comfortable.
One of my favourite things about racing the Red Hook Crit series is the atmosphere in the team area.
You get the chance to meet up with friends from all over the world and catch up since the last race. It’s the openness, laid back attitude and positive mentality which creates an encouraging environment for newbies and professionals alike. With no crowd separation or barriers to athletes, as a rider you are completely open and available to the public. So everyone from Pro photographers, fans and just your everyday bike enthusiast can swing by for a chat.
I feel like I was once one of this people just watching from the side-lines dreaming of what I could achieve. I’ve only managed a top 40 place at Red Hook Crit but it’s still an achievement in the presence of such a high quality men’s field.
The qualifying and races came thick and fast with each of us sent out to perform, fully supporting each other’s efforts whether qualifying for the final or not. That’s the ethos we promote at ELF, it’s a group of friends out there pushing their own abilities. We race hard, party hard but always support each other which creates a chilled no-pressure atmosphere.
I feel like this approach worked well in Brooklyn considering almost every rider exceeded their personal expectations and achieved their best finish.
Results for the team were as follows;
Johanna Jahnke – 10th
Brooke Philips – 17th
Veronika Volok – 28th
Women’s Team Overall Standings
ELF Huez* – 25 Pts Joint 3rd
Dan Cooper – 30th
Owen Blandy – 43rd
Edgar Aizbalts – 85th
Matt Payne – 93rd
Men’s Last Chance race
Max Geddes – 30th
Ben Flower – 36th