Nail biters! Fortin, Lemieux deliver tight victories at 11th Red Hook Crit Brooklyn
A pair of podium regulars — Italian Filippo Fortin and Canadian Raphaele Lemieux — once again tasted victory Saturday at the eleventh edition of the Red Hook Crit Brooklyn in front of thousands of spectators lining the course.
The long day of racing started out under clear sunny skies, but as the day progressed a strong wind picked up that eventually drove in a bit of rain in time for the women’s race. The drizzle turned to a downpour in the final six laps of the men’s race.
The women’s final was an absolute spectacle as nearly every favorite took turns rolling the dice throughout the race. At several times it looked like either Margeaux Vigie (Santafixie BLB London), Lisa Wörner (Aventon Factory Team), or Esther Walker (Aventon Factory Team) were holding on to a race-winning advantage. But the Specialized-Rocket Espresso due of Lemieux and Carla Nafría had other plans, stitching the race back together for Lemieux to take the win.
The men’s race saw Specialized-Rocket Espresso fighting with the field and the weather to deliver Justin Williams to the victory. But in the final meters, Fortin (Team Bahmer Critlife) was able to snatch the win away from the powerhouse squad.
Lemieux takes a hard-fought win
The women’s final kicked off with Santafixie BLB London teammates Vigie and Ainara Elbusto taking the fight to the field from the gun, with Vigie winning the first-lap prime. Elbusto countered the prime and pulled out a group of three. But the move was short-lived and brought back quickly by the field. Vigie resolved to keep the one-two punch going, countered again, and quickly was able to establish an eight-second gap.
This early move held for a few laps but thanks to the efforts of Nafría (Specialized-Rocket Espresso) and the Aventon Factory Team the gap to Vigie began to come down. The chase received more incentive as Elbusto, Vigie’s teammate and a heavy pre-race favorite, crashed out.
As the chase closed in on Vigie, Wörner (Aventon Factory Team) jumped from the field and quickly connected to Vigie. Their gap to the field was tenuous at best and the duo was joined by Giorgia Fraiegari (Cykeln Divisione Corse). Vigie struggled with the pace at the front and was eventually dropped just before the mid-race prime, won by Warner.
Behind the leaders, Nafria was doing a tremendous turn to try and bring it all back together for Lemieux. Those efforts brought the race back together; having emptied the tank, Nafria dropped out of the race. Esther Walker (Aventon Factory Team) jumped away from the now very small lead group to try and capitalize on Lemieux’s lack of support.
With seven laps remaining, the gap to Walker was holding around nine seconds. With no one left to help her Lemieux took to the front of the chase and attempted to ride everyone else off her wheel. The effort to bring back Walker whittled the field down to just 16 riders with two laps left to race. At the start of the final lap it was Worner, Vigie, and Lemieux sitting in the first three positions, but out of the final hairpin, no one could match Lemieux’s kick to the line.
“They really made me work for it tonight”, said Lemieux. “Carla (Nafria) worked so hard for me and in the last few laps I just had to go. I’m happy I could do it.”
Melanie Guedon, in her first Red Hook Crit, took second, and Vigie rounded out the podium in third as well as receiving the Rockstar Games Top Antagonist award for her efforts to animate the race.
Fortin snatches victory from the jaws of Specialized Rocket Espresso
Rain threatened the men’s race, but was still just a drizzle as riders left the grid. A blistering first lap by Alessandro Mariani (IRD Squadra Corse) earned him the first-lap prime with an impressive kilo effort right from the gun. After a brief reset in the field, Alec Briggs (Specialized-Rocket Espresso) went straight to work driving pace for his team, making it clear early that that Specialized wanted to ride on the front.
At the unlucky end of the field, 2016 RHC Brooklyn winner Colin Strickland (Meteor X Giordana) found himself out of the race with a mechanical, taking a heavy favorite out of contention early on and easing the burden on Briggs and the rest of the Specialized-Rocket Espresso team.
Specialized-Rocket Espresso continued to put riders on the front, including a few brief attacks from 2017 winner Stefan Schäfer. These probing attacks were allowed to roll from the field briefly but couldn’t establish as other teams were not falling for the sit-up tactic being played by Schäfer’s teammates.
Evan Murphy (MASH SF) attempted to briefly break the stalemate, but as the race neared the mid-race prime the pace picked up significantly in the main field. Schafer went up against Mariani, with the Italian attempting to get the jump on the field a lap out, but this time Schäfer was ready and came of Mariani’s wheel to take the mid-race prime.
Aussie Gus Morton was ready to keep the pace hard for the Specialized team. With 10 laps to go in the race the entire five-rider Specialized squad converged on the front of the race and began driving.
“The plan was to meet up at the front with 10 laps to go,” said Justin Williams, “I was feeling extremely motivated because the guys had a lot of faith in me. We executed that part of the plan perfectly.”
With three laps to go, Morton and Eamon Lucas had dropped off the back leaving just three Specialized teammates; Briggs, Schäfer, and sprinter Williams with Fortin (Team Bahumer Critlife) well positioned in fourth just behind Williams. Fortin had up to this point showed exceptional patience while Specialized rode the front.
As Briggs dropped Williams off for the sprint on the final lap, Fortin was able to hold Williams wheel, making the pass into the final bend to win Red Hook Crit Brooklyn No.11. Williams and his lead-out man Briggs would hold on to round out the podium in second and third.
“It was perfect for me,” said Fortin. “I prefer to finish in a sprint so when they [Specialized] started riding I knew I just needed to hold my position and wait for the right moment. It was a very hard sprint but I’m so happy to be able to win here in Brooklyn.”