We recently wrapped one of our last events of the 2017 season, our home Red Hook Criterium in Milan. It was the eighth edition of the race and the sun was shining, making for a great weekend of racing and parties.
We were running the Parc Fermé for the third year, which is the area for bike checks and rollers where the riders can warm up pre-race. As ever we had a great crew of volunteers who ran it all seamlessly under the guidance of Palu founder Alberto Battaglia.
First-time volunteer and Red Hook Crit newbie Maria Grazia Arcidiacono recounts her experience of the weekend:
"We started the weekend at the track day at the Vigorelli Velodrome. It was nice and sunny and we spent the afternoon in the track circle catching up with friends, drinking beer and eating focaccia. It was nice to meet Chris from Berlin who was with the 8bar Team and understand a bit more about the history and culture of Red Hook.
That evening we decided to head to the pre-party at Santeria Social Club in the south of the city near the popular Navigli district. I hired a city bike and rode there with my husband who had his Cinelli with him after a week riding in Como. We had time for a few drinks before having to head off to find somewhere to dock and swap the bike – it starts getting very expensive after 2 hours!
The next day we walked to the circuit in Bovisa. I didn’t expect such a big setup with so many sponsors and the grand stand at the finish line, mega impressive! We checked in at the volunteers’ tent, grabbed our crew t-shirts and then had a briefing with Alberto at the Parc Fermé.
The morning was fairly quiet, spent setting up rollers and sweeping the area… the calm before the storm! At around 12.30pm it started getting busy with riders arriving to have their bikes checked and get onto the track for the open session. Our main duties were to check rider numbers and make sure that we were staggering the arrivals by heat. There were a limited numbers of rollers so they needed to be reserved for the riders who had their qualification race coming up next. Some of the riders would get frustrated that they couldn’t warm up when they wanted, but mostly everyone was chilled.
It was pretty non-stop all day during the qualification races until we had a break at 5pm. This was a welcome chance to grab a beer and some food, plus go around the race village chatting to some of the teams about a cycling skincare range I’m looking to launch. After the break the racing was back on with an exciting Last Chance race, then the women’s and men’s Super Pole – a flying lap which decides the starting position of the top 20 riders on the grid.
As the sun began to set and the flood lights came on you could feel the atmosphere ramping up for the final races of the evening, it was pretty electric. After letting in the remaining riders to warm up on the rollers I snuck off for a bit to watch the women’s race. It was amazing to see such a strong bunch of girls racing, coolissimo!
As the men’s race was starting we started packing down the Parc Fermé, breaking down the rollers, then removing the hoarding from the barriers and stacking them up. Alberto then got us inside the track to get a brilliant view of the race from behind one of corners. The men’s race fast and furious, great entertainment from start to finish.
At the end of the action we caught the podium ceremony and deliberated whether to head to the after-party. Without bikes it was looking pretty expensive by taxi so a few of us headed to a bar in Bovisa instead at around 1am for a beer and bruschetta. Not quite the crazy party we intended, but a nice way to wind down the day.
I’m originally from Catania and this was my first time in Milan. It feels similar to London, pretty modern, vibrant and eclectic. It was a great atmosphere all weekend with a bunch of like-minded fun people. I do a bit of road riding myself, but this has definitely got me more interested in the world of fixed gear. Who knows, maybe I’ll be racing next year!”
Follow Maria Grazia on Instagram @mari.arci for foraging and bike adventures in Sicily.