Fixed Gear Crit

David on the Red Flag in Red Hook Criterium Brooklyn No.10: “The dreaded red flag call is one of the toughest yet simplest decisions I have to make during a race.”

In both the men’s and the women’s race of Red Hook Criterium Brooklyn No.10 a restart occurred. Whereas in the women’s race it was quite clear that a restart was necessary due to a massive pile up, in the men’s race the Red Flag situation was more disputed afterwards. We decided to ask RHC race director David Trimble on the red flag situation in the men’s race, the standard procedure of red flag situations, and how this procedure came about.

What is the standard procedure for a red flag situation?
We manage the circuit with a team of “Course Marshal Zone Leaders” who report to “Event Control” via radio. Event Control is small team (tucked away in a quiet office) who are connected directly to the marshals, medics, and race control (me). They are in charge of evaluating the scope of any major incident and providing commands. I will only take orders to stop the race from Event Control.

The zone leaders have the full authority to request a red flag when they deem it necessary. When they make the call it is my duty to obey. With a serious injury time is precious. Even if we are in the last few laps of a race I will follow any command to bring out the red flag.

Until Barcelona No.3 (2015) we relied on local zone leaders in each city. At that race we stopped the men’s race because of a major pile-up in the hairpin. Afterwards we looked at the situation and realized the marshal made a premature decision and we could have kept the race going. I appreciated the caution but we needed a more serious approach. Since that race, the same top-level team travels to each race gaining experience after each round. These guys are real professionals and I trust them completely. I believe the Red Hook Crit is unique in the cycling world for how we manage the circuit.

Once the call is made, stopping the race is fairly streamlined due to the athletes showing respect to the race officials. In the old days there was confusion but now almost everyone understand the implications. I am thankful for the cooperation of the athletes. I know how much it sucks to stop mid-race and feel their pain greatly.

I would also say that red flags are just a part of crit racing. It’s an element to the sport that must be mastered if you want to be successful.

What information did you get on which you based the red flag situation in RHC BK 10?
When the call came to stop the race in Brooklyn my heart dropped. It was clearly going to be a tough situation and I knew it was serious. Event Control simply stated that ‘due to the severity of the injury’ we needed to stop the race. I didn’t need any more information than that.

The key to efficient management of the circuit is to keep communication down to a bare minimum. Because of this I won’t receive detailed information on specific incidents; only actionable commands.

How do you look back on raising the red flag?
After every red flag we evaluate the situation and question whether or not it was the right decision. In this case we had a rider who was bleeding heavily due to a compound fracture. The only way to we could have kept the race going would have been to move paramedics and the injured rider across a live course. Other races may have taken that risk but I’m confident we made the right decision. I am also happy that the athletes who crashed through no fault of their own were able to get back into the race.

There are always a few riders who don’t agree with the decision. I can only say that if they were in that situation we would do the same for them.

What is the standard procedure for a restart?
We are still working on the re-start procedure. It has greatly improved over the years but it still has a ways to go. The hardest part is controlling everyone’s emotions so sound decisions can be made. Personally, I’m at the limit during these situations and the pressure comes from every direction.

The procedure is to line up the athletes in the groups they were in before the red flag incident. This is the only fair way to reset the field but causes confusion when there are several laps between the incident and when the red flag came out. The rule that must be understood is that we revert back to the last full lap before the crash. This is why Aldo Ino Ilesic, Davide Vigano, and David van Eerd (who all crashed) were allowed to restart.

It is important to understand that when a big crash happens like in Brooklyn we don’t necessarily know who all was involved right away. We don’t have the luxury of reviewing replays and have to trust the timing/scoring data and marshal information. For example it was apparent that Aldo Ino Ilesic was in the crash but most people, myself included, didn’t realize van Eerd and Vigano had also gone down.

Once we line up the groups the restart is fairly simple. We restart each group with the same gap they had before the crash.

How did the restart in RHC BK 10 go?
The restart in Brooklyn actually went remarkably well and I would argue that the top 10 would have been similar even without the stop. We made one significant mistake, which was to not allow Robin Gemperle to restart in the lead group where he had been riding before the crash. These kinds of mistakes keep me up at night and are a catalyst for improvement.

Did anything chance in the procedure for the future?
The biggest thing we can do to improve these situations is to better delegate who is in control of re-setting what part of the race. There is huge pressure to get the race restarted as quickly as possible, which leads to less precision. Going forward we need more race officials and we need to stop the athletes well before the start/finish line so controlled call-ups can be made. We also need patience and understanding from the athletes. The more controlled everything is the more precisely we can reset the race.

Red Hook Criterium Brooklyn no.10