The Red Hook Criterium takes place every spring in the Red Hook Cruise Terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. What began as an informal bike race open to any racer looking for a challenge evolved to become an international event with sponsors like Giro, Minelli, and Timbuk2. Regardless of the bright lights and international audience, the race hasn’t given up it’s gritty, industrial feel embodying the personality of Red Hook.
Once a year the typically quiet and secluded neighborhood of Red Hook – one of the few New York City neighborhoods devoid of trains – becomes swarmed with bikers sporting flashy frames, sponsor logos, and cycling caps. Baked, the one neighborhood coffee shop, becomes packed with customers ordering espressos in a slew of European accents. For a moment the neighborhood perks up.
By 11p.m. on the night of the final race, cowbells echo throughout the empty streets, cheering on the bikers. Event lights illuminate the cruise terminal, mouthwatering scents waft from food trucks, and during the last race, roars emerge at each and every turn in excitement and anticipation.
Then, just as quickly as it came together, the crowd scatters. Chain-link fences lined with locked bikes are stripped naked as bikers ride off into the darkness of Red Hook’s industrial streets, usually on their way to brighter lights in Williamsburg or Manhattan in search of celebratory drinks.