In Racing Towards Red Hook, three cyclists of diverse backgrounds compete in one of New York City’s biggest underground events, the 2011 Red Hook Criterium. The rules are simple: 20 laps, one gear, zero brakes. Each March, more than 80 mostly-amateur cyclists pin on the numbers to race through the streets of Brooklyn’s industrial Red Hook neighborhood, navigating a technical course. Illuminated only by streetlight and moonlight, the 2011 course is extremely challenging and lined with hundreds of spectators, despite windy, sub-freezing temperatures at the 11pm start. Riders dream of winning the famed cobblestone trophy, and with every passing year, the competition gets fiercer.
Frank Warren, a Brooklyn coffee shop owner, hopes to shock the field and win his first-ever crit as a virtual unknown. Al Barouh, a seasoned rider who works at a local bike shop and teaches New York children how to ride track bikes, finished third a previous year and looks to take a step up on the podium this time around. Defending champion Dan Chabanov, a bike messenger and rising star in the cycling world, hopes to use his experience cross racing to power ahead of the field once again. Unique and daring, the Red Hook Crit brings together athletes of all sorts of racing disciplines and varied backgrounds to compete in an event that’s like no other. It’s a type of race that’s on the verge of a worldwide explosion, and the Brooklyn riders are the heartbeat of the fixed gear criterium movement.