Fixed Gear Crit

Ash Duban, “…Getting your ass kicked makes you better. If it demoralises you to the point of not wanting to race again, you’re not cut out to win bike races.”

Ash Duban proved to be the most consistent woman in the Red Hook Crit (RHC) field in 2016. Despite not winning any of the four races, she gathered the most points overall making her the winner of the 2016 Red Hook Series. Interestingly, throughout the entire season she only crossed the finish at the front of the peloton once, a testament to her strategic expertise. She also completed three of the four races without the assistance of teammates. Ash competes in both geared road races and fixedgear crits. 2016 was the year she made the decision to shift focus from geared races to the RHC Series. Although some might think that the top fixedgear riders don’t do much besides training and racing – not for Ash Duban, she spends 40hrs+ a week working as a designer at frog Design. Ash lives in Austin, Texas where she currently shares an apartment with other fixedgear star Colin Strickland. Although she calls Austin home, her work has allowed her to live in New York, San Fransisco, LA, Seattle and Sydney, Australia. We spoke with Ash during her short training camp in Girona, Italy, where she spent 10 days riding road bikes with her coach Michael Sheehan and other fixedgear riders Thérèse Sundström and Keira McVitty, before traveling to Munich, Germany where she had to go for work.

Text: Brian Megens
Photos: Tornanti CC

Ash Duban & Jasmine Dotti by Tornanti CC

Ash got into cycling when she was living in New York 7 years ago. “In 2006 and 2007 I participated in some alley-cat races. The first few I did on a geared road bike, and in 2007 I got my first fixed gear.” Her biggest cycling adventure was in 2009 when she was on the bike for two months, riding from New York to Los Angeles, a 5000 mile tour. Two years later Ash competed in her first criterium on a geared bike in Texas. “I was surprised by how short the races were, I was used to riding long distances, all day in the saddle and now the crits were only a little over an hour.” Although she didn’t start as a fixedgear rider, she developed a passion for riding fixed. “When I was living in NY and LA I commuted on fixed. I simply love the adrenaline rush it gave me, the control you have over the bike weaving through traffic, and the simplicity of it all. The freedom. These are the reasons I love cycling.”

In geared road racing, she moved from category 4 (beginner) to racing the national elite level within 2 seasons. However, 2014 didn’t go as hoped, “I had pro aspirations but fell ill at the end of the year, and was off the bike for 3 months. This had a big impact on my 2015 season where I tried to build my fitness back up for 2016.” 2016 proved to be a year which fixedgear racing was prioritised over road racing (although she did still over 50 road races that year). “Fixedgear racing is easy to get into. The bikes are cheaper, more durable, and much simpler compared to carbon road bikes.” Ash is still a member of the ATX Hit Squad domestic elite team, however, “I mainly do road races to work on team tactics, improve my fitness and technique for the RHC crits”. Despite several world-class pros entering the fixedgear scene, Ash still managed to win the series. “I had to race smart because I was racing alone without the help of any teammates. I also think the experience I have in road racing is a big advantage, I know how to read a race – when to save energy, when to use it, and who to keep an eye on. There’s much more to winning a race than just having the physical strength.”

Ash on her way to the break-away in London

Her favourite fixedgear crit course is RHC Milano which she won in 2014, but the race in RHC London was her cycling highlight of 2016. ‘London was a great race for me, but there were a lot of mixed feelings about it in the pack. When Dani went with the other favorites, I knew that would be the winning move so I made a big effort to bridge up. It was a perfect break and we all worked well together, rotating on the front and taking the turns smoothly. However, once Dani attacked (…) it became clear we were racing for second. I won my first Rockstar award and secured enough points to pull on the leaders jersey after the race, so it worked out well for me. I think much of the field felt demoralized because they were lapped and eventually pulled. It’s tough traveling so far to not finish a race, but I think it’s a good learning experience. Dani is probably strong enough to race (and be able to compete) with the men, but having an olympian lining up next to you at RHC really ups the caliber of the race, and will force us to be stronger and smarter next year. We are going to have to race against phenomenal athletes from time to time that are simply in a different league – this is the nature of the sport. Competing with people that are better than me makes me step up and hold myself to their standards. Getting your ass kicked makes you better. If it demoralizes you to the point of not wanting to race again, you’re not cut out to win bike races.’

Ash Duban & Jasmine Dotti by Tornanti CC

In the last RHC race of the year, Milano, Ash was was leading the Series Championship standings with Keira McVitty being the biggest threat and Anaira Elbusto close behind her. “It wasn’t my best race but I knew exactly what to do and had my mind set on winning the series so when the break went I didn’t spend too much energy trying to chase them down, as no one in it was a threat for the GC.”

For the upcoming season Ash has high goals but realises that the competition will be harder. However, Ash will have a partner in crime as Jo Celso will be her team mate for the RHC season. Stay tuned as Ash will tell us more about her goals this seasons and her team!

Ash Duban winner of the RHC 2016 serie by Tornanti CC