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21 Jun

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Two frighteningly fun races

June 21, 2017 | By | No Comments

Two frighteningly fun races.

By Matt Payne

 

Rapha Nocturne

After a successful (unofficial) pre-party, with thanks to Huez* Apparel, Jackpot Peanut-butter and Volcano Coffeeworks, the Nocturne in heart of London was inevitably going to be a thrilling home race.

-It got busier than this, promise- 

The weather was perfect, swaths of blue instead of grey could even be seen in the sky -looked odd. The team Brooke, Ben, Jevi, Max, Edgarz, Dan, Owen & I racing felt some unassumed responsibility with the community and crew being present, expecting big things.

-LDN pride and sore throats-

The first lap, after a cautious neutral lap, was incredibly crashy. 3 pile-ups in one lap, eew. A bike bounced across the track and I had to come down and back up for the restart, which is where everyone finally switched on.

 

 

 

-Federico pulling a sick skid fam-

The race was fast! Dan, Owen and I had fun in the front group, this course tests both technical ability as well as strength in the two straights. You cannot help smiling as you go around this circuit, unless you’re suffering, which is what happened to my race.

 

-‘Like the boss level of a video game’-

A mechanical meant that I had lost 2/3 bike lengths in every corner and had to make it up on the straights. With 1 lap to go I fell off the front group by about 15 seconds as Owen and Dan both finished within the top 10 of an elite field. Brooke killed it in the sprint, finishing second. A magnificent result for our team, born out of nothing more than friendships and the pursuit for good vibes, amazing!

Crying whilst time-trailing, it’s a thing-

Rad Race Fixed 42 – III

The Rad-Race Fixed42 is another surreal race. Memories from last year are of a ferocious Autobahn section -where Owen got megafame- and an excruciatingly long sprint finish.

-Owen unt his Fixed42 megafame, as poster boy, from 2016-

The same was true of this year, I feel that it was more crashy, though. Ben got tangled up due to an inexperienced rider flailing next to him at 46km/hr (glad you’re okay duuude). Maybe I haven’t been training all that much this year, or maybe had too many Berlin Burgers, ‘coz the pace at Templhof was scorching and holding on felt like climbing up a gym rope that’s been doused in petrol and set on fire.

-Coops to the right of the shot, minorfame. *It must’ve been unimaginably hard work to be on the front of this field, ew-

I set it back to a smaller group with Edgarz & Max, who, with players from 8Bar, Standert and FixedPott, worked well to keep the tempo up finishing at 46.5km/hr avg. Within the city, the tailwinds where sweet but headwinds were grim. Also, the finishing straight is just so long that it becomes that intense part of spin class where the girl who’d signed up to the gym at New Years -for the first time- has a nosebleed.

 

 

 

 

-Dan, on the left, head down and probably venting like Tony Martin on a hot day-

 

For me, a fun but casual race this year. Shout out to Toto and Johanna for solid performances in the Women’s field. Well done Dan for 18th (Blasting Owens and My 29th and 26th last year, respectively). Thank you to all our sponsors for all of your support and faith!

 

Photos by Sam Dunn

15 May

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Adventures of ELF Huez* – New York edition

May 15, 2017 | By | No Comments

By Owen Blandy

All pictures by Luke Atkinson

@lukeatkinson

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;

Women

Johanna Jahnke – 10th

Brooke Philips – 17th

Veronika Volok – 28th

Women’s Team Overall Standings

ELF Huez* – 25 Pts Joint 3rd

Men’s Final

Dan Cooper – 30th

Owen Blandy – 43rd

Edgar Aizbalts – 85th

Matt Payne – 93rd

Men’s Last Chance race

Max Geddes – 30th

Ben Flower – 36th

 

We are super excited for the rest of the season with the following races lined up

Saturday 10th June – Nocturne XI, London

Sunday 18th June – Rad Race Fixed 42, Berlin

Saturday 1st July – Minet Crit II, London

Saturday 22nd July – Red Hook Crit, London

Saturday 2nd Sept – Red Hook Crit, Barcelona

Saturday 30th Sept – Red Hook Crit, Milano

 Final Lap Footage on board Owen Blandy below

https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=4yX7ffVhUMI

05 May

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Red Hook Crit Brooklyn No10 – Race report by Dan Cooper

May 5, 2017 | By | No Comments

As another Spring begins, another fixed gear season kicks off and the opener is non-other than Red Hook Crit on it’s home turf in Red Hook Brooklyn for the 10th time

East London Fixed is back for more and in bigger, better form. With new title sponsor Huez* the team, now mens and womens, is 10 strong and ready to battle. This season as ELF Huez*. The trip over to NYC is always a good one, it’s a great city to ride round, eat out and have a good time. Combined with the anticipation of the race it makes a great week away.

ELF Huez* bought its strongest lineup ever to Brooklyn.

For the mens race:

  • Owen Blandy

  • Dan Cooper

  • Matt Payne

  • Max Geddes

  • Edgarz Aizbalts

  • Ben Flower

  • Jevi Repponen

For the womens race:

  • Brooke Philips

  • Johanna Jahnke

  • Veronika Velok

After a few days filming and riding we were ready for race day. The same pre-race rituals kick off, big carby meal, lots of water and setting up the bikes and kit. After some pretty dramatic storms over night, we wake to some incredible weather. Almost no sign of the rain and already 20+ degrees. We load up and ride to the circuit together. After getting set up in the rider area, we prepare for qualifying.

The change in qualifying seemed well accepted among most and to be honest it took much of the stress and anxiety out of the process. Previous Red Hooks have been emotional roller coasters due to the lack of control you sometimes had in setting a fast lap. Perhaps you missed the fast train of riders, you had slow riders blocking your line during your attempts, or a red flag interrupts your attempt. There are only so many max 90 second efforts you can take.

Lining up for the qualifier I was 6th, which I was Super happy with, so was ready and raring. Being in Aldo Ilesic’s qualifier, meant we were looking to him to set the pace. On the grid my Garmin was reading 31 degrees and my heart rate 115bpm. Caffeine, adrenaline and a good crowd all contributing. Typically, my resting heart rate is around 50.

As we set off the familiarity of bunch racing set in. I’m happy here. I’m comfortable and in control of my fate. I let riders pass me willingly to conserve and sit in. The pace wasn’t frantic, so when I wanted to move up, I could. A few laps to go and I decide to move towards the front and maintain front 5 position. As we make it through the hairpins for the final time 3 riders are slipping away. Not a problem, I didn’t want to hit super pole due to the extra event so made no effort to chase. Into the headwind on the back straight there was a slight lull in pace as no one wanted to do the work. Just as I look round I hear a familiar voice shout ‘Dan get on!’. Matt has attacked and given me enough notice to jump on his wheel for a lead out. We drive down the back straight into the headwind at 50+kmh, a quick glimpse back and we have a gap. I accelerate round Matt for the final 2 corners and sprint home for 4th, Matt gets 5th. What a great ride!

Still buzzing off of the excitement I head back to the athlete area ready to share our elation with the team. We step in and begin explaining and I get a tap on the shoulder. ‘Number 257, are you Dan Cooper?’. Oh shit, what have I done? Am I DQ’d?

‘You’ve been selected at random for a Doping Test, can you come with me please?’.

Instant relief. I would have hated bad news after such a good result. Thankfully I know I’m a 100% clean athlete and I was strangely looking forward to being tested. I was interested to observe the whole process. I’m happy this goes on at events we all work so hard to race.

I was taken through to a controlled area where the testers from WADA were waiting. They explained, I’ll need to provide a urine sample. Given the intense heat and workload I already feel dehydrated so accept their offer of water and play the waiting game. 4 x 500ml bottles in about 10 minutes did the trick and I went through to the bathroom with the tester. I chose 1 of 15 sealed urine cups at my choice and proceeded. During washing my hands I’d already opened the cup and some water had sprayed on it. The tester requested I get another. Nice to see they take this all really seriously.

After providing the sample we sat down and the tester used a small device to test the concentration. He explained that if it is too weak we’ll have to wait and test again. The sample was within the correct parameters so thankfully I wouldn’t have to wait around to pee again. I was asked to select a sealed box at random, again 1 of 15. The tester asked me to open everything myself. The box contained 2 sealable glass bottles which once closed are locked. After documenting the serial numbers, the sample was divided into the 2 bottles. The tester explained that the top of the lid is opened via laser so the seal need never break. He asked me to attempt to open them in order to confirm the seal and make sure I was happy. I took my copy of paperwork and off I went.

Now it was time to get the feet up, refuel and get in the zone for tonight’s men’s race. We shared qualifying stories and advice on how to deal with our relative races and positions. This is the time where I prefer to just get headphones in and keep myself to myself. Most of the team felt the same and we were all chilling in our rider area.

Once warmup time came around we headed to Parc Ferme for rollers. Annoyingly they were all busy so we headed back in and borrowed a spare pair from the affinity paddock. Thanks go to the unknowing owner.

Time came around and we headed out to the course for the procession lap, the weather was balmy, 23 degrees at 9:40pm. The wind had died down slightly and the crowds were massive. I don’t remember seeing a blank area anywhere and around the start finish it was 5-6 deep. We gridded up and got set to go.

The cameras started flashing.  Boards were banging and the countdown began. This moment is always electric and why we come back again and again. Before you have time to absorb it 3, 2, 1, go! Clipping in and it’s on, straight up to 53kmh before the madness of 100 guys slowing for the first hairpin. Matt Payne had a mental start and flew past taking loads of places. The stink of rubber as riders lock up the rear wheel to brake wafts through. My heart rate reaches threshold within the first minute. This is going to hurt.

Onto the back straight and 53kmh. The tone has been set by Alec Briggs who drills it home for the 1st lap breakfast prime. The pace doesn’t let off and this race is on.

Honestly from here it’s a whirlwind. Every lap we hit the hairpins at around 32kmh and accelerate to 53kmh on the straights. I’m hanging on to this rollercoaster ride trying my best to manage my limit. Occasionally I see a gap open 2 or 3 riders ahead. I’m not getting dropped from the main bunch that easy. I come around the flagging riders and drill to close it.

Crashes take place throughout the race around me but never so close I can’t react. The first hairpin was the most common spot, perhaps the limits or grip? A catching pedal? Or riders taking different lines and making contact. Matt is taken out in one of them, a shame as he was having a screamer up until now.

I mostly trade places with 5 or so riders around me as the race was so strung out. I remember seeing 9 laps to go and hearing the devil in my ear asking me how on earth I’m going to manage this. I ignore it and just pedal hard. 5 laps to go and red flags go up. There has been a pile up at the front of the race involving some of the favourites. I wanted the race to be over. The idea of stopping and restarting into the pain again wasn’t favourable. As we stopped at the starting grid all of a sudden I felt a wash of heat and sweat. On the inside, I felt like a steaming race horse.

Once the incident was dealt with David and co did their best to reorder the groups and the breakaway of Colin and Stefan. Off we went, I clipped in immediately and shot off making up 10 or more spots straight away. Back to mental pace and the final was on. Coming into the final lap I felt good and ready to finish this off. Down the back straight at 53kmh again and through the last corners at 50 launching into a sprint for those extra 2 or 3 spots. This was honestly one of the fastest and most intense races I’ve ever done! Averaging 44kmh with 3 hairpins, one gear, no brakes. Amazing.

My final results was 30th. A personal best and only 5 places off of my season goal of top 25. Owen finished first out of the chasing group with an admirable 43rd. Edgarz in his first ever Red Hook Final was lapped at 11 laps to finish 85th. Matt unfortately didn’t get to finished after being crashed out but walked away with minor road rash.

Special word to the rest of ELF Huez*. Max finished 30th in the last chance race, Ben 36th. Johanna got 10th, Brooke 17th, Veronika 28th to secured 4th in the team standings!

This trip was a fantastic opener for ELF Huez* and we’re all super excited for the rest of the season.

My full on-board race video is viewable here:

 

Picture Credit: @repponen

10 Apr

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Season opener and summer vibes – The 5th Floor track day.

April 10, 2017 | By | No Comments

Summer’s only around the corner and we’re pretty sure that everyone agrees, it’s about bloody time!

And what better to get your summer vibes warmed up than with a day down at the velodrome for the 5th Floor track day!

Ok, so maybe we’re jumping the gun slightly with all the summer talk. But with the weather we’re having recently and after pretty a rad day down at the track with some of London’s finest, who can blame us! – Especially when you’re a few beers down under the sun and we all start to dream about being back in Barcelona.

So, first race of the season down and it’s not really about winning at this stage (even if it is a nice added extra) and even though this wasn’t a criterium, track days are really good to help find out where your body’s at physically. But mainly, season openers are a great way for everyone to test the waters a little, have some fun and see some awesome people from the community that may have been hibernating away throughout the winter.
A great day to just remember, that yeah, this season is only going to get better and better.

And it may have been a better start than the rest of us for one of our ELF Huez newbies – Brooke. On her debut race for the team and she put on a corker of a performance, bringing home two 2nd place finishes and one 3rd, Result!

Overall, the 5th Floor guys put on a pretty top notch afternoon and a great way to kick off the season!