Fixed Gear Crit

Germain Burton, the future of British fixed gear crit racing?

Despite Germain Burton being only Twenty-two years old, he already build up quite a name for himself on the track being labelled as the biggest talent of his generation. However, Germain left the British track development programme and is now taking a small step back, focussing more on riding crits, setting up the One Life Cycle project with his mate Mat Watson, and thinking about his next steps forward in his cycling career. Although his Red Hook Criterium debut, RHC BK 10, wasn’t the succes he hoped for, as he got taken down in the last laps in top-15 position, Germain didn’t have to wait long for his first fixed gear crit win. In the Minet Crit he was too strong for the rest of the field and  to be a serious contender for Red Hook Criterium London No.3. We had a little chat with him on how he started cycling, his highlights so far, his ambitions for Red Hook Criterium London No.3, and his thoughts on the sport. 
Text: Brian Megens

“I started cycling with my dad on a tandem that he used to ride with my mum, when I was 11 and on summer holidays from school. We used to rack up some speed in places and it was really good fun, racing the other club members. The following year, I ditched the tandem for my own road bike and started riding with De Ver Cycles, the club of my dad’s south London bike shop. I got into track cycling quite late, compared to a lot of other young riders who I used to race and train with. Although my dad raced the Sixdays as a pro in the 70s/80s, he told me to enjoy riding on the road without worrying about racing for quite a while. I raced on local road circuits from 14 but only started on the track at 17 when I joined the Great Britain junior squad and could travel around more independently.”

Germain considers his participation in the six days, and racing the Track World Championships in Cali, Colombia as highlights of his track career so far. “They’re tough but still exciting and enjoyable racing. Racing in Cali, Colombia Track World Cup 2015 and winning a bronze there in the team pursuit and sealing the Overall win for the World Cup was great too! More pressure than the sixdays of course, but the atmosphere and the reception from the Colombian people was amazing. I’d like to return to the sixdays before too long. Having left full time racing to develop other skills, including personal training for improved structural integrity in the body, as well as developing other areas of my life, I feel like a return to track racing may be on the cards.”

Red Hook Criterium Brooklyn No.10 was Germain’s debut in fixed gear crit racing. “My best mate and training partner as a boy, Mat Watson “@rucola_63” has raced and won London Alleycat races in the past and is a solid fixed gear racer. He asked me if I’d like to race with him and form a team with a community project focus, to try and make cycling at any level and type of riding appealing, to young people in London. Mat and I both qualified 8th in our heats and spent the first part of the race working our way towards the front. Mat unfortunately punctured out of the race early on, which was gutting. I was positioned around 10th wheel in the peloton when the race was stopped after a crash with 5 laps to go. After the race restarted, a rider on the inside of me going round the first hairpin, slipped out and knocked me straight towards the barriers on the exit of the corner. I came to a dead stop and that was my race over with four and a half laps to go. I really enjoyed the racing but hopefully better luck this time round!”

“Mat and I have been training hard and rode the White City Track Minet Crit a couple of weeks ago, to get a fixie race in our legs before going back into Red Hook. We managed to bag a good result, as I took the win in a sprint after spending a fair part of the race off the front. Mat and I were both happy with how we rode, as he kept things together for me, for the sprint in the final. So things are coming along well. We’ll see how we get on next week!”

Although Germain, as a track cyclist, is used to riding a fixed gear bike, preparing for fixed gear crits is different. “To prep for fixed gear racing, firstly I commute to and from the gym I work at, in the City of London on my De Ver Cycles fixie. I do ride with brakes in town, despite the cultural pressure to just completely be “one with the bike”. There are a lot of crazy drivers and generally crazy people in South London and it’s hard to anticipate what all of them will do! I normally skip, skid or hop to slow myself down on my travels though. I also train on that bike, generally on pretty moderate terrain, doing intense intervals to mostly work on power and anaerobic capacity. Not so much volume, just hard and fast! After a DNF in Brooklyn, my first expectation this time round is to finish! Aside from that, I’d like to be competitive at the front of the race but not sure how I will fare, so we’ll see what my legs can muster on the day! I also expect to have a lot of fun with some wacky fixed gear racing!!”

“I would like to continue to race fixed gear crits in future as I think it’s really exciting, enjoyable and technical racing. It demands more skill than a normal crit and I think that concept makes it more entertaining for spectators. I’d like to be competitive for a win/podium by the end of the year at least, but I’m just really enjoying the racing and the buzz of the whole scene. Like I mentioned earlier, with the One Life Cycle project Mat and I are working on, we’d like to use the racing as a way into making riding/racing/tricks more appealing to young people in London. This scene is definitely a place where they could feel at home and part of a positive community.”

Germain’s thoughts on the scene, “it is growing quickly and I’m glad to see it. There’s a great, friendly and exhilarating atmosphere because of the crowds and the nature of the racing itself. It’s a great way for people to access bike racing and do so, in an environment that is still very fun and not high pressure. For us at One Life Cycle, we hope that we can make this style of racing appealing to young people who would maybe like to race, but can’t afford a full road bike and don’t have a race license.”

“With the top end of fixed gear racing growing again in venues for next year, I think it’s fair to say that the scene is expanding! I reckon there’s a lot more growth in this sub-culture of cycling to come and I’m sure popular demand will see this scene blow up over the next few years! Exciting times!”