NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of people crowded a course in Red Hook, Brooklyn this weekend to watch a high-sped bike race that is sweeping the cycling world – but that some say is dangerous.
As CBS News’ Adriana Diaz reported, bikers zoom around hairpin turns at top speeds – and at the competitors’ own risk – in the high-stakes, no brakes bike race known as the Red Hook Criterium – or the Crit for short. More than 300 cyclists participated on Saturday.
Without brakes, sudden stops are not an option. Riders can only push against the fast-moving pedals to slow down — and some of them take spills and go flying off their bikes over barricades.
Kacey Manderfield Lloyd ranked number one in the women’s division and placed third in the race on Saturday. She acknowledged that it can be dangerous.
“It’s like your video game and you’re in it,” she said. “And somebody crashes and burns, it could be you — literally.”
The Crit takes place on city streets at night. Riders speed around a three quarter-mile course 24 times. If you are lapped, you’re out.
The 300 participants range from bike messengers to professional riders. The mixed bags of bikers all sharing a crowded track can lead to major wipeouts and injuries, and ambulances are always on standby.
The Crit has expanded to Milan and Barcelona, and will soon expand further cobblestone streets in London. In each event, spectators line the course just inches from the action.
“It’s just a tunnel of noise and everyone screaming and cheering, and it’s just – it’s exciting that way,” Manderfield-Lloyd said.
The energy has kept Manderfield-Lloyd returning to the course since winning the very first Red Hook race in 2008.
But the international cycling movement began as a birthday party. In 2008, David Trimble was looking for a way to celebrate his 26th birthday in his neighborhood, and decided on a bike race.
The Crit is not sanctioned by an official cycling organization, which would restrict course layouts and provide deep pockets for insurance to cover injuries.
And there have been major injuries. In 2013, Joshua Hartman, 15, fractured his nose, eye sockets and jaw while competing in Brooklyn.
He reportedly received $1,200 from Red Hook Crit organizers, but it wasn’t enough to cover more than $100,000 in medical costs. Participants are required to sign a waiver that lays out the dangers of the event, and participants now must be 18 or older.
Participants defended the race and said it is safe.
“Really, all bike racing is dangerous, and pretty much any sport we are going fast is dangerous. I don’t think the Red Crit is more dangerous than even an amateur race in Central Park,” Trimble said.
“It is seen as being more risky in general by most racers,” Lloyd said.
But participants said the risks are of the draw to the race.
“It’s hardcore! It’s bad ass! It’s all of those things, you know. And people like to be a part of that, right? They like to, ‘Oh yeah, I did that,”‘ Lloyd said.