Preview: Everything you need to know about this weekend’s Red Hook Crit Barcelona

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The third round of the Red Hook Criterium Championship Series will take place Saturday, September 2, in Barcelona. With half of the 2017 series now in the books we can start to really zero in on the story lines and major contenders that have survived the first two series races, held in Brooklyn and London.

New Track for Barcelona No.5

For the series’ fifth stop in Barcelona, Red Hook Crit organizers have put forward a completely new course.

“Our main motivation was to make the venue even more spectator friendly without creating any new hazards for the athletes,” said race director David Trimble.

The new track features eight corners, two of which are hairpins, all packed into a single kilometer. As always with a new circuit, it’s hard to know how the racing dynamics will be affected, but based on past events the presence of two hairpin turns would make us think that the advantage goes to the breakaway artists in the field.

Evan Murphy of MASH SF, a veteran of the Red Hook Crit, shared his thoughts about the new course. “I think it will be even more important than usual to stay at the front on this new course,” he said. “Conservatively, there are three major slow downs with two hairpins that will create some serious whiplash for riders further back in the lead group. The slow downs will also kill everyone’s legs and likely completely shred the field. I can’t see many riders finishing on the lead lap of this one.”

Saraiva and Lemieux set to battle for series lead

Only one point separates current series leader Eléonore Saraiva of Aventon Factory Team (69 points) from London revelation Raphaele Lemieux of Team iBike (68 points). We expect the three bonus points awarded to the winners of the heat races, as well as the super pole, to be crucial in determining who will wear the red Castelli leaders skinsuit in Milano.

Eleonore Saraiva (left) will have to mark Raphaele Lemieux (right) closely if she hopes to retain the red leader’s skin suit.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at the two qualification heats for the women’s field.

In Heat 1, Lemieux seems like the clear favorite to win and claim the bonus points on offer. Saraiva, however, seems to have found herself against some stiff competition in Heat 2 from Jasmine Dotti (IRD Carrera Squadra Corse), as well as five-time Red Hook Crit winner Ainara Elbusto (DC Road), who is making her return to the Red Hook Crit peloton sitting out the first two races of the season. With this stacked second heat it will be hard for Saraiva to claim the bonus points, especially as she will be missing crucial support from her teammate Sammi Runnels, who is not starting in Barcelona. 

Raphaele Lemieux and Eléonore Saraiva on the start grid in London.

Regardless of who holds the series lead heading into the final, it’s likely that Lemieux and Saraiva will watch each other’s every move. Their nearest series rival, Colleen Gulick of Deluxe Cycles, is not taking the start in Barcelona. And with Jasmine Dotti (IRD Carrera Squadra Corse) over 20 points back from Saraiva there will likely be two races happening on Saturday — one for the series lead and one for the win in Barcelona.

Despite the high pressure atmosphere heading into the race, Lemieux is maintaining a very laid back attitude.

“I’m not really worried about the points. It’s still the middle of the season and anything can happen,” Lemieux wrote in an email earlier this week. “I’m going to focus on enjoying the race and riding fast.”

Uncertainty mounts in men’s field as teams struggle for control

In the men’s field, Colin Strickland (Intelligentsia Racing) has emerged as the most consistent rider, leading the championship series with 57 points. He holds a slim three-point lead over Davide Vigano (Team Cinelli Chrome), with London winner Filippo Fortin (Team Bahumer) another 13 points behind Vigano.

Colin Strickland will make his 2017 debut in the leader’s skinsuit in Barcelona.

After Team Bahumer’s display of dominance in London, all eyes will be on them. The team showed strong depth with Fortin, Giovanni Longo, and Alvise Zanasca each winning their qualifying heats, moving into the role as the most dominant team while Specialized-Rocket Espresso struggled with crashes and flat tires. Team Bahumer will start six in Barcelona but will have to contend with the return of Aldo Ino Ilesic (Specialized-Rocket Espresso), who missed the London event.

The most effective rider at controlling a Red Hook Crit peloton will be back in Barcelona, but the Specialized-Rocket Espresso squad has its work cut out for itself if they want to contend for the overall series. A podium for either Stefan Schafer or Alec Briggs would propel them into contention for the overall lead going into Milano.

Stefan Schafer will be trying hard to get himself back into the leader’s skinsuit.

Meanwhile, Intelligentsia Racing is bringing fresh talent to Barcelona to defend Strickland, the series leader. Kevin Girkins and Cesar Valenzuela will join the team for the third round of the series. Girkins is a newcomer to the Red Hook Crit peloton, bringing extensive American criterium and road racing experience, but it will be hard to know if he can be effective at helping his team. Valenzuela is a rider with some proven ability, having beaten Strickland (before they were teammates) at the Mission Crit race in California; Valenzuela was cruising at the front of the field in Brooklyn before crashing himself out.

Strickland will be hoping these two new riders, along with Marius Petrache, can help give his squad the numbers needed at the front of the race so he doesn’t have to fight with the other powerhouse squads singlehandedly.

After the first two rounds of racing, there now seems to be more uncertainty, rather than less, in the men’s field. The top 10 riders in the championship are all within 27 points of each other, and no one team has yet displayed consistent cohesion. Team Bahumer will be working for Fortin, while the once cohesive Specialized-Rocket Espresso team is mending itself without a clear leader. Intelligentsia Racing is tasked with defending Strickland’s lead against not only two very motivated teams, but also against the likes of Cykeln Divisione Corse and Aventon Factory Team on Saturday in Barcelona.

CyclingTips is the official media partner of the Red Hook Crit series.

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