This year, we'll be working with Manual for Speed to cover the RHC phenomena with a project we're calling "Wheels of Speed" or WHOOSH for short. We have a bigger team than last year, and yes Aldo is returning, a fresh line of customized bikes, and a deeper level of coverage than even we hoped for. Brace yourself, it's going to be a fast season.
Red Hook Crit
Round Three of the Red Hook Criterium is in the books, and this time, Team Specialized x Rocket Espresso were headed to Barcelona. Of course, Manual for Speed was one step behind, cameras in tow. Read on to see what the Doctors of Journalism had to say about how it all went down in Barcelona.It seemed that the stars were aligned for the men of Team Specialized x Rocket Espresso as they lined up to race the final in Barcelona. All four riders had qualified for the main and were riding strong. There was a feeling, a vibe, that this was going to be the team’s race. Alec Briggs and Stefan Schafer qualified with ease in heat one, the duo coming in second and third giving them plenty of time to rest their legs before the grand finale. In heat two, Eamon did what Eamon does and hammered his way to first place. The gauntlet, as they say, had been thrown down. As for the fourth? Aldo had returned. He was back and racing in Barcelona, and if his form and antics were any indication, he hadn’t skipped a beat since Brooklyn. But the God of Speed needed to be sure and decided to test his metal. During qualifying, Aldo dropped his chain at full speed, and with no way to slow down, he took aim at the nearest barrier. Fortunately, he has both the reflexes AND the speed of cat and managed to do a perfect somersault, gracefully flipping over the barrier and landing on his feet. Perhaps all the wakeboarding is beginning to pay off? His points from Brooklyn automatically qualified him to race the last chance qualifier, and having the appeased the God of Speed, Aldo didn’t disappoint and took the win.
And while the men prepared for the final, Carla Nafría took her place on the starting grid. She wasn't happy with her eighth place in qualifying and started the race with fire in her eyes. This year the course at Barcelona had been changed and became substantially more technical, and come finals, the riders were still trying getting comfortable with the layout. The number of corners meant that racers would need to be very smart about how and when they put in hard efforts. In order to have any chance at the win, riders needed to maintain a position near the front of the pack. The serpentine course, however, caused the peloton to pinch and distend, and as the race moved along it, racers found it increasingly difficult to move up through the pack. Unfortunately, Carla fell victim to the difficulties of the course, and while she was riding strong, it seemed that luck wasn’t on her side with a 10th place finish the most she could muster in front of a friendly crowd of fellow Spaniards. By most accounts, a top 10 finish at Red Hook would be a dream come true, but for Carla, it only adds more fuel to the fire. She has her mind set on the top of the podium and there's no doubt that Milan is going to be one hot race.
The men’s race was just brutal, attack after attack after attack after attack with Team Specialized x Rocket Espresso team doing their fair share of covering the breaks. These continual attacks kept the pace in the final high and was only made more difficult by a breeze pushing in off the Mediterranean. The laps ticked off and fatigue set in with riders blowing up and falling off the pace like sailors abandoning a ship on fire. With four laps to go, Team Specialized x Rocket Espresso stacked the front of the field hoping to control the pace and to position Alec Briggs for a chance to take the win. But the stars don’t stay aligned forever. First, it was Aldo to drop and he pulled out of the race completely gassed. Was he finally feeling the effects of his gymnastic routine? Just a few laps later, Schafer hit the deck, splintering the field.
Despite all of this, Alec was still in contention coming into the last turn. And with a podium finish all but assured, he opted to take a chance and go for the win. But it wasn’t to be. Cutting hard to take the inside line, he overcooked the final corner, which caused his front wheel, and a podium finish, to disappear out from under him. Even with a pulverized field, Eamon was able to put in a strong finish and negotiate the broken detritus of bike and body to salvage 10th overall.
This wasn’t the result that the team had hoped for, but after it was all said and done, the team had left everything on the track and there's no fault to be found in that. With the race over, the party was just getting started and oh my does Barcelona know how to party. Barca, we love you, and you can be sure we’ll see you again next year.
Red Hook Crit
When the Specialized / Rocket Espresso Red Hook Crit squad thinks of Barcelona, they will no doubt picture a city bathed in warm, late summer light—sunny days to look forward to as they attempt to put the rainy results of London in the past.In London, Eamon Lucas was on a flyer and well off the front before falling victim to the slick, wet roads. No doubt, he’ll be looking for redemption in Spain, and judging from his social media feed, Eamon's speed has undoubtedly increased.
London wasn’t all bad, though: hometown hero Alec Briggs came away with a spot on the box and his third place finish moved him into seventh overall, right behind teammate Stefan Schäfer. Since then, Alec has been mixing it up in England with a bit of road racing and a spot of mountain biking, and we don’t doubt the cross training will come in hand when he lines up in Spain.
Unfortunately, sixth place in the overall is not where Stefan wants to be, given the momentum he carried into London after taking the win in Brooklyn. But a mechanical in the final made his race for the overall title considerably more difficult. And while not totally out of reach, Stefan will need to get Lady Luck back on his side if he's going to have any chance of taking home the series crown. Rest assured, Herr Schäfer has been cranking out some high-speed kilometers behind the derny in the lead up to Barcelona.
Carla Nafria hails from Madrid, and while she isn’t exactly local, she would like nothing more than to stand on the top of the podium in her home country. And we’re sure she’d be especially ecstatic to take the win over a Barcelonés, given the intense rivalry between these two major Spanish cities. A new edition to the team, she put on an impressive performance in London before her podium hopes were dashed to the ground by the slippery roads.
Team leader Aldo Ilešič was notably absent from the London race, and we still have no news about a potential return to the RHC in Spain. If he rejoins the fold, will he finally be able to claim his place on the top of the box? Only time will tell.
This year the riders will be tackling a new course layout: tight and twisty, there are nine corners on this circuit, so anticipating speed, managing exertion, and maintaining a high level of flow will be critical for those looking to take home the win (or even to simply make it out in one piece). In the first two races, the men have showed that they make an efficient team, and barring any bad luck, Specialized / Rocket Espresso is in a strong position to make a bid for the podium. For Carla, no doubt the excitement and motivation of racing in her native country will give her that little extra boost towards the top of the podium.
All the action is set to go down in Barcelona’s famed Parc del Forum, located in the city’s center right off the beach. The riders, staff, and fans will undoubtedly take full advantage of the city's famous beaches, night clubs, bars, and–if they can find the time–cultural sites. One thing is for certain, Barcelona is going to be a very good time.
Red Hook Crit
We sent Manual for Speed to London to cover Specialized x Rocket Espresso at the Red Hook Crit. Here's what they saw.Racing fixed gear bicycles through city streets in the midst of a pack of white-knuckled racers is difficult, it's harrowing, it's madness, and to do it right, to come across the line first, you have to ride the razor's edge. And the razor's edge is, well, a razor's edge. It is sharp and thin, and any slip, any miscalculation will likely result in some serious consequences.
Unfortunately, London summers are beset by drizzles and downpours. In Albion, the gods of storm pay no heed to the race dates of the Red Hook Crit. This year’s race was soaked from start to finish, and this made the well-worn streets of London slick as ice and the razor’s edge that much harder to ride.
In the women’s final, Specialized x Rocket Espresso’s new recruit, Carla Nafría de Miguel, showed that she had the pace and was on track for a top 10 finish before her hopes and her body were dashed against the wet concrete in the final laps of the race. Confident and unfazed, Carla now has her sights squarely set on Barcelona where she’s making plans to take the top step of the podium in front of a crowd of her countrywomen.
The weather did not improve for the men’s race. Brooklyn winner and Red Hot Crit series leader Stefan Schafer suffered a flat early on that would end his bid for another win. Sticking with the plan, Eamon Lucas was intent on controlling the race from the front, setting a high tempo that would grind down the rest of the pack. And while Eamon rode off the front, local hero Alec Briggs—the London Lion—was strategically positioning himself for a spot on the box. It was obvious to all that he was on a flyer and feeling the energy from his hometown when he too was struck down by a flat. Fortunately, Alec was able to make a quick change and get himself back into the race without much damage being done.
The rain was relentless, and with 15 laps to go, misfortune struck again. Lucas was involved in a crash that sent him to the ground hard. Bleeding from the corner of his eye, Eamon looked every part the pugilist who'd been blasted by a hard left hook. But no sooner had he hit the ground than he was back on the saddle and into the race. Unfortunately, though, Eamon was not able to hold off the charging peloton in the final laps. And while he wouldn’t place in the top three, his efforts wouldn't go unnoticed, and he walked away from the race with the Top Antagonist jersey.
Meanwhile, Alec had worked his way back through the pack to put himself within striking distance as the white flag came down. With the savvy of a seasoned Red Hook racer and the energy of the crowd driving him towards the line, Alec took third place in a sprint finish against last year's series winner to secure a spot on the podium and his best finish in a finals to date. MENTAL! This race was so difficult, and yet, despite the many mechanicals, crashes, flats, and mishaps that faced the team, Alec’s third place finish and Eamon’s Top Antagonist jersey are a testament to the depth and tenacity of Specialized x Rocket Espresso. The crew is already looking forward to the sunny and dry climate of Spain and has every expectation that they’ll be crowded on the podium in Barcelona.
Red Hook Crit
It's time for round two of the Red Hook Criterium, and this time, Team Specialized x Rocket Espresso is heading to London. Of course, Manual for Speed is a step behind and gonzo reporting as they go. Read on to see what the Doctors of Journalism have to say about the coming event. After nearly a two-month break, the Red Hook Crit (RHC) series is at it once again. This time, the Mad Max meets F1 meets Roller Derby meets Glastonbury Race/Party/Experience will be careening through London’s Greenwich Peninsula. In times past, pirates were hung in cages on the shores of this peninsula to serve as a warning to all those who might wish to pursue the pirate life. With the cutthroat, no-holds barred street fight of the RHC coming to town, it’s obvious that the warning has long been forgotten. So expect plunder, expect thrills, and yes of course, booty…the prize money—come on!
It's into this fray that the good ship, Specialized x Rocket Espresso, sails. The crew is well prepared, packing enough combined watts to power the London Eye. They arrive with every expectation that they can repeat and improve on the success they had in Brooklyn as they aim their cannons at the most important fixed gear race in Ye Olde Albion.
And while the entire team has been putting in hours of preparation, there is no doubt that this race is going to be a special one for Alec Briggs. Born and raised in London, Alec cut his teeth, or should we say chiseled his legs, on the banked curves of the Herne Hill Velodrome that's just a stone's throw away from the RHC racecourse. Will it be Alec’s day? Only time will tell, but team Specialized x Rocket Espresso is stacked with talent and Alec isn’t alone in his quest for the top step of the podium.
Team leader Aldo Ilešič set the lap record on the London course in 2016, and after so many visits to the podium, he is still searching for that elusive top step. Will London be his race? Aldo returns to the UK alongside the team’s young muscle, Eamon Lucas, and both are in beast mode after a long block of racing in America's most prestigious criteriums. As for the winner of Red Hook Brooklyn, Stefan Schafer, he's known to keep a low profile. But with one win already under his belt, there's no doubt that the quiet German will be hungry for more.
No matter the final outcome, the team is sure to make an impact aboard their brightly colored Allez. Forget the skull and crossbones, it’s the bright and audacious colors of these bicycles that strike fear into the heart of the peloton. Combined with the fact that these bikes look fast while they’re standing still, there's no doubt the team has a psychological advantage over the rest of the field. And while we can’t predict the future, we feel confident that there's a good chance you’ll see our racers storming the podium in London.
Eamon is a savage who was born to smash gears. Hailing from Pacific Grove, California, Eamon has been shredding every kind of bike for as long as he can remember. And while he’s an accomplished geared crit racer, 2017 will be the first time he takes on the Red Hook Crit. We asked him what he thinks the difference will be between the styles: “Red Hook Crits go in circles with no breaks, normal crits go in circles with breaks,” simple as that. “The Red Hook Crits are full gas all the time.” While he’s out to race, Eamon made it clear that he enjoys a good party, and we’re sure the RHC atmosphere will not disappoint. And while we hope to see Eamon on the podium at every stop, pay special attention to him in Milan as the race is set to take place one day after his birthday. There is no doubt he’ll be looking to blow out some candles on the top step of the podium.
Stefan is 31 and lives, trains, and works in Cottbus, Germany. He’s German, so it’s not a coincidence. Brass tacks, the man is fast. He won Red Hook Crit: Milan last year, was the Military Road Race World Champion in 2013, and he’s not even remotely done adding to his palmarès. During the day, he works as a police officer, and no doubt that the reflexes, awareness, and intuition he hones on the job come in handy while sprinting full speed amongst a seething pack of hungry competitors. That, combined with 20 years of bicycle racing experience, will make Stefan a force to be reckoned with in 2017.
A native of London, Alec is a 23-year-old DJ / bicycle racer with a penchant for bunny hops, and is someone who is no stranger to the Red Hook Crit. He was able to finish 13th overall in 2016 and is hoping for a much smaller number this year. A one-time junior racer for Team Great Britain, Alec now trains specifically for the RHCs; the style and intensity of the racing rekindled his love for racing. "This is the UFC of cycling. You can be racing the World Tour with the big dogs, come to RHC, and get your ass kicked by a messenger with more tekkers on a fixie than Hans Ray and Sagan put together." Although maybe not as powerful as some of the other riders, Alec points to his cornering skills as an equalizer: "In geared crits you can blag* with fitness and strength, not in the RHC. The skills need to match your fitness." With the second race of the season happening in London, it’s a good bet we’ll see Alec cracking off his best turns. *Don’t live in London? We looked it up, it means a trick or move, in this context it means "get by."
The leader of the Specialized/Rocket Espresso RHC Hit Squad, Aldo took home second overall in the 2016 RHC series. We’re not surprised—he’s a born and bred racer, and the man just loves to go fast. The need for speed is in his DNA, hardwired. If he wasn’t racing a bike, he’d be racing something else: cars, skis, snowmobiles, tractor trailers, horses, jet skis—you name it, if it goes fast, he’s in. “I can’t cruise, it’s either full gas or no gas.” Straight out of Ptuj, Slovenia, Aldo raced successfully as a junior throughout Europe before turning his attention towards crits. With his sights set on 2017, all he has to do is take one last step to find himself on the top of the box, and knowing what we do about Aldo, he won’t let one step get in the way.
Red Hook Crit
This year was the 10th anniversary of Red Hook Crit Brooklyn and the stakes had never been higher. Over the last decade, the prestige of this race has skyrocketed and the competition has responded in kind, with the racing becoming increasingly professional, the racers more dedicated, and the pace of competition increasingly faster. In 2017, the Red Hook Crit (RHC) series will stop in Brooklyn, London, Barcelona, and Milan, and the combination of densely-populated metropolitan locations, coupled with a full day of qualifying and racing, has become a wildly popular format. The enormous crowds that line the race course, from the first qualifier to the final, are testament to the success of these races. And with the hype of the 10th anniversary and beautiful weather in the forecast, this year’s edition was going to be nothing less than fire.The addition of the Specialized x Rocket Espresso Gang of Four—Aldo, Eamon, Stefan, and Alec—was like adding jet fuel to the brightly-burning conflagration, and they took the event to an entirely new level. This team is a super group to such an extent that their palmarès have palmarès. In 2016 alone, Aldo was second in the series, Stefan took the victory in Milan, and Alec was well inside the top 10 overall. And while Brooklyn would be Eamon’s first Red Hook Crit, our dude wasn’t stressed—he’s spent the last couple years ripping legs off in crits and road races around the world. There were high hopes for the team to have a successful weekend, and they delivered in spades. Racing aboard their gorgeous Allez Sprint bikes, bedecked in an insane graphic treatment (designed by Dylan Buffington), the team was dressed to kill and the hunt was on.
Alec and Aldo each won their qualifying heats in decisive fashion, while Eamon and Stefan ran into trouble during their respective qualifiers with crashes and mechanicals. They bounced back to take first and second in the Last Chance qualifier, though. And with the entire team in the field for the final, the atmosphere in the team tent was electric. The first half of the final was a knife fight filled with feints and jabs from teams throughout the field. But when Colin Strickland launched an attack with Stefan glued to his back wheel, mid-race, the breakaway stuck. Aldo, Alec, and Eamon, showed their confidence in Stefan by shutting down any attempts to bridge the gap. Meanwhile at the front, Strickland and Schäfer pushed the pace and put a substantial gap into the rest of the field, setting up a gunslinger dual for the finish. Unfortunately, a crash with five laps to go forced the race to come to a halt in order to clear the course. As it happens, though, Aldo was mixed up in the crash, so with the clock ticking, he rushed to the pits for a new wheel, banged his handlebars back into place, and slammed a beer all to the wild cheers of the crowd.
With the race restarted, Stefan and Colin were given a head start to reestablish their lead, and once again, we were watching a two-up race for the top of the podium. With one lap to go, Colin attacked; unperturbed, Schafer countered with a half-lap remaining, distancing Strickland to take the checkered flag in Brooklyn. Aldo rolled in third, blood-splattered, soaked in beer, and with a wide smile on his face. Alec had taken an early prime and Eamon had dug deep throughout the race chasing down breaks. The team had worked together flawlessly—what a race!
Red Hook Crit x WHOOSH x Team Specialized/Rocket Espresso
The Red Hook Criterium series (RHC) represents a look into the “current” future of professional road cycling. Why? Because the RHC is an international series of highly specialized races, which showcase and demonstrate the purest, rawest, and most exciting exhibition of speed that cycling has to offer. It’s part NASCAR, part Professional Rodeo, part Fight Club, part Friday Night Lights, part modern-day gladiators, and ALL SPEED! And while enthusiasm for traditional road cycling continues to flounder in the eyes of mainstream America, excitement about the Red Hook Criterium is growing at an exponential pace—from existing fans of cycling and sport enthusiasts to friends and family, randos, and common citizens.Criterium racing has always been popular in America (it’s how we race), but until recently, it hasn’t managed to gain much traction as an international export. The Red Hook Criterium’s modern, progressive approach to race promotion, and its modified, highly specialized racing format is changing that. In turn, fans all over the world are changing how they look at criterium racing. The RHC has ushered in a wave of enthusiasm for this style of racing from fans around the world.
Specialized / Rocket Espresso
Whoosh Design Process
Creating good design is difficult. If it’s been manufactured, it’s been designed. All day, every day, the deluge of design means that we're in a constant state of critical review. And while the majority of us passively ingest this information, when presented with a need for judgement, our experience informs an ability to critique—and designers have no choice but to take notice. As Mark Twain once said, “The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all.” But the public can’t design, creation by committee is doomed, and so to be a designer is to stake a claim in the face of overwhelming criticism. To be successful requires skin thick enough to withstand this onslaught, yet thin enough to recognize its value. Dylan Buffington likes to think that he’s spent his formative years searching for this balance. In 2016, Specialized created four custom paint schemes for their two riders competing in the Red Hook Crit series. Heading into 2017, the Red Hook team has been expanded to include five riders, but their bicycles will be brought under one unified design. After making this decision, the design group within Specialized sought to develop a set of guidelines for 2017 based on their efforts the previous year. Though they had the best intentions, the world is a busy place: things crop up, demand attention, and get in the way. Suddenly, the team found themselves up against a fast-approaching design deadline.
New to the Specialized team, Dylan Buffington volunteered. He would need to design a comprehensive graphic package for the five riders on the the Specialized/Rocket Espresso Red Hook Criterium race team: an integrated look that accounted for the bike, shoes, helmet, kit, and other accessories. The designs needed to capture the speed and excitement of the Red Hook Crit series, they needed to evoke the idea that this style of racing is breaking old paradigms, and that its unique makeup is helping to push the future of bicycle racing forward. In addition, he needed to communicate these ideas in a way that was palatable to the consumer market. They couldn’t simply be one-off specials, the design had to be scalable and appeal to a public appetite. Oh—and it all needed to get done in two weeks.
Taking inspiration from the iconic BMW Art Cars and their melding of art and speed, specifically those by Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, Buffington jumped in, “Warhol spent like 36 minutes painting his car. He was minding, but not minding too much.” It was the way in which Warhol walked the line between thoughtlessness and over-thinking that inspired Dylan, and with a time crunch of his own, he adopted this idea as a guiding principle. As he was going through his mood boards, he discovered that the same seven colors kept appearing: “I just wanted to use them all,” said Buffington, ”but I kept getting feedback that it was way too many, especially for production. But I knew it would be right, and sometimes you just have to do it without asking first, and tell everyone they need it after it’s done.” Buffington, guided by intuition, devised a method by which the graphics would work for production. Once done, he began applying the graphics to a huge assortment of accessories and equipment, each presenting their own set of design challenges. He piled on the hours, slept in the design studio, and tacked on more than a few overnighters. Was it worth it? The various production timelines meant that Buffington needed to survive a few anxiety-riddled months before seeing the final results. Seemingly unfazed, Dylan espouses the philosophy that, “If you feel good about, run it.” Upon seeing the final results, he was not disappointed. Now it’s up to the Specialized / Rocket Espresso team to put all that effort on the top of podium.