The Red Hook Criterium, the iconic race that popularized cycling’s fixed-gear criterium format, will suspend its series in 2019.
David Trimble, the series founder and owner, told VeloNews that he canceled the 2019 races after learning that the event’s sponsorship revenue was unable to cover its mounting overhead costs.
Trimble said he plans to revive the series after a year off.
“There were, in my opinion, bad options to continue this year at a lower level,” Trimble said. “But for me, reaching the full ambition of the race is my idea. So, instead of scrambling to find solutions for this year, I’m going to take a year and relaunch it in the future.”
At its peak, the Red Hook series encompassed four fixed-gear criterium races across the globe, with events in New York City, London, Barcelona, and Milan. Each race attracted thousands of spectators and hundreds of participants, from WorldTour pro riders to novice racers. Riders pedaled on fixed-gear track bicycles across a winding, twisting criterium circuit. The unorthodox format produced dramatic racing and unpredictable tactics.
Like many traditional pro races, Red Hook’s business model relied heavily on sponsorship to cover its operational costs. The cornerstone of the race’s sponsorship portfolio was a title sponsorship deal with New York City-based video game manufacturer Rockstar Games. The company inked several multi-year deals with the race during its five-year run as title sponsor, with a single-year title sponsorship deal coming to a close after 2018.
Trimble said he was surprised to learn that his sponsorship options for 2019 were no longer large enough to cover the race.
“It was a shock in a sense that, if I was expecting this to happen, it would have happened at the end of last year,” Trimble said. “Not at this point this year.”
The race also maintained a relationship with its host venue, the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, which is located in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood. In 2018, the venue fees to use the terminal went up. That cost increase, when matched with other price increases, forced Trimble to suspend races in London and Barcelona. Thus, the series was reduced to just two events: New York City and Milan.
“Last year cost as much as a four-race series did the year before. It was that our costs were growing faster than we were able to increase the sponsorship income,” Trimble said. “It wasn’t like our budget got cut in half last year — the event’s costs just went up.”
The suspension of the 2019 races marks the first serious hiccup in Red Hook’s storied 11-year history. The event was launched in 2008 as a clandestine street race to commemorate Trimble’s birthday. A handful of riders competed on open city streets in the industrial neighborhood’s southeastern corner. Trimble required riders to race on fixed-gear track bicycles to level the playing field between traditional road racers and bike messengers.
The event attracted riders from various cycling subcultures and quickly grew from spectacle into sport, pushed along by social media and word of mouth. In 2009, Trimble held Red Hook races in New York City and Milan, Italy. By 2010, Trimble had a small list of industry sponsors and a permit from the city. In 2013, he inked a major sponsorship with Rock Star Games, which blossomed the event into a four-race series.
Simultaneously, other fixed-gear criterium races and racing series sprouted up across the globe, from California to the Netherlands.
Trimble said he is confident that fixed-gear cycling’s global reach can help the Red Hook series make a return in the future. Since its inception, Trimble has staged 29 total Red Hook races.
“There’s no shortage of other [fixed gear] races now and there are teams all over the world that have formed around [Red Hook],” Trimble said. “My hope is that one year [off] is just a blip in the larger scheme of things.”