With the Team Huez announcement of Callum Skinner and Kian Emadi racing Red Hook Brooklyn and them having just returned from Hong Kong for the 2017 Track Cycling World Championships, we spoke to them ahead of their debut for Team Huez to find out why they are choosing to race Red Hook and what they think about fixed crit racing.
You guys were out in Hong Kong last week?
CS: Yeah, World Championships in Hong Kong were the first major competition since the Olympic Games. After Rio I had a month off. I did a little Grand Prix in Holland which went pretty well a few weeks ago, and I'm now hoping to build on that and some of the success we had in the Games at Rio. The first World Championships after an Olympic Games is usually a chance for youngsters looking to break through. Some of the Olympic guys even miss the Worlds after the Games, so it's quite an exciting event in the four-year cycle because it's when you start to see some of the names of the future.
So this in-between phase gives you the chance to try your hand at other things?
CS: I think it's important after an Olympic year to try new things and branch out a little bit because what we do is so specific and so niche – and it has to be really, because of the level that it's at – but it gives us the opportunity to do stuff like Red Hook. It really focuses that love for cycling, ultimately.
When did you guys first hear about Red Hook Crit and fixed-gear crit racing?
KA: I first heard about fixed crit racing about 2 years ago. I saw pictures and videos of Red Hook Crit on Instagram and YouTube, and a few of the guys I follow on Instagram were racing Red Hook in Brooklyn and in London. I saw the kind of style of racing and thought it was pretty cool!
CS: I’d known about fixed gear crit racing for a little while. I’d always wanted to give it a go but it was never really the right time…until now. Red Hook specifically, a few months ago as I started looking at videos of the racing.
And what are your thoughts on the sport?
KA: I really do think it’s a positive thing, as an event in itself and also for the sport of cycling, and I think it incorporates all the things that are good about cycling; it’s a very competitive race, but at the same time it seems to be really exciting and new and dynamic, it doesn’t feel like it’s corporate, it feels alternative and different, which I think is really cool to see and obviously it attracts a massive crowd and support, so yeah, I think it’s really positive for cycling.
Why do you guys want to compete in Red Hook?
KA: I wanted to compete in Red Hook for all the reasons I said earlier! It just seems like a really exciting and different event, it seems pretty unique really, and the thought of track bikes with no brakes, on a Crit circuit, seems pretty cool, so that’s also a plus!
CS: I've seen videos online and it all looks a bit bonkers. But I'd never been presented with the chance to give it a go until Huez asked me. When they wrote to me I was really quite keen to give it a shot. As I said earlier, what we do is so specific and focused that it's a good time to give something else a shot, and get involved in a new and exciting scene.
Did you get any response from fellow track cyclists when you told them you would race in RHC BK10?
KA: Yeah, we got a bit of a response, when we mentioned we were racing Red Hook, everyone just kind of raised their eyebrows a bit and were like “are you sure you’re ready for it?”. I think just because it’s so different, people, myself included, don’t really know how it’s going to go, but yeah, everyone was pretty supportive, but at the same time a bit surprised.
CS: They were all quite jealous to be honest. It looks like such an exciting and dynamic event.
I hear David Trimble from Red Hook Crit is giving you his famous bikes.
CS: Yeah, we've checked them out and obviously we've been in contact asking him what all the bits and pieces are. In cycling it's bred into you to be quite aware and conscious of the kit you're using and this is the best kit for the job. We've both been pretty impressed with the set-up we're looking to get when we get there. Before that I'm looking forward to giving it a shot in Manchester, get used to cornering on a fixie bike before we get out, and hopefully make the best of them when we get there. We're just pretty excited about getting going – I think it's going to be a great trip.
So how are you preparing for the race?
KA: Hopefully we’ll get to ride the Trimble Bikes we’re going to use a little bit before, just to get used to the feel of them and the feel of pedalling through corners basically, that’s going to be the main difference, just remembering to pedal as we enter and exit the corner. Obviously Callum and I spend a fair amount of time on track bikes anyway, so we’re used to that aspect of it, it’s just going to be about transferring that to a circuit with more technical aspects.
CS: Since I’ve returned from the World Championships I’ve been smashing some turbo sessions to try and improve my fitness with the help of my physiologist.
And how are you guys at turning right?
CS: Well, that's the tricky thing! In the words of Zoolander: I’m not an Ambi-turner! Basically, I've only ever turned left in my bike career so it'll be a new experience. But as I say, fixie bikes are my bread and butter – hopefully that will count for something out there. It's an exciting new challenge. I've no doubt that after this experience, I'll probably come home a better bike handler. It's important to keep your hands in other disciplines – the skills can really transfer. That's the best thing about British Cycling – we have all the disciplines based in one location so we can learn bits and pieces of other disciplines. That inter-discipline thing is really important to our success so far.
How do you rate your chances judging by what you've seen on the videos?
KA: Well if I can go there and get around the circuit and not embarrass myself that would be a start! Yeah, I’m really excited and looking forward to doing it, but I understand the guys who are successful at this are incredibly talented and it’s a real technical art to get around in the most efficient and quickest way so hopefully I can just hang on to some coat tails!
CS: I'm not sure how good my chances are but I'll be there to give it my best shot. I've spent a good portion of my life on a fixed gear bike – that counts for something. I'd say maybe Kian has a better chance because he's got more of an endurance background. But, yeah, I'm definitely going to get stuck in. But I'm under no illusions – it's a tough field out there and there are guys with a lot more experience than me. I'm not expecting to just walk in and smash it.
Any chance of you racing more Fixed Crits or only in the post-Olympic season?
KA: Hopefully! If it goes well, and I’m good at it then I’d like to, but I think it depends on how it all goes. It is something we can do in a post-Olympic year where it’s a bit quieter and you get a bit more time and freedom, and as stuff builds up for selection for the next Olympics, it gets a bit more hectic on the track, but yeah, it’s definitely something that if it goes alright I’d like to do some more of in the future.
CS: It’s really more of a post-Olympic thing, however who knows?!
What else are you looking forward to doing in New York?
CS: I can't wait - I haven't been since I was 15. The fixie culture is something that's always really interested me and it's something I'd like to get stuck into. Brooklyn has a great reputation so I'm looking to get stuck into the city and get a feel of what's going on. It's not all about the racing. It's also about meeting the fans and the other riders, and getting involved in the scene as much as possible.