Raphaele Lemieux was the first Canadian to ever win a Red Hook Criterium. In London she beat the whole field including top favourite Dani King making her a top contender for this years RHC series. Raphaele is supported by Velo Ibike, a bike shop in Montreal which supports a lot of local fixed and road cyclists. Josh Gieni, co-owner of the bike shop, is a fixed gear crit racer himself and tries to promote the sport in Canada. Besides doing this by his team Ibike, he also organises fixed gear crits. One of those crits, the Ibike Crit, will be held next week during the Jackalope Fest, the biggest action sports festival of Canada which means a weekend full of awesome sports like skateboarding (also the WC -13), freestyle motocross, climbing, precision base-jumping, and of course fixed gear crit racing with the Ibike Crit. We spoke with race director Josh to find out more about the crit, how the sport is doing in Canada and Montreal in particular.
“The Ibike Crit falls within an action sports festival called Jackalopefest. Micah Deforges is the event director and this year is the 6th edition. For us it will be the 5th time that we are part of this festival to organise the Ibike Crit. Micah approached us in the first year of the festival to collaborate on a fixed gear event. That year we build a wall ride. It has become known as the wall of death as two riders were taken away in ambulances. The race is 100% inspired by the Red Hook Crit. Team iBike raced the RHC for the first time in 2012 and we started the iBike crit the same year.”
“The Ibike Crit is a classic fixed gear crit. The course design has changed year after year depending on the layout of the festival. However, this year’s course is exactly the same as last year. There is a chicane, two 180 degree turns that are relatively open, and two long straights for a total distance of just over 1km. This year we are adopting the qualification system. Depending on the number of entries, we will have certain number of qualification heats. The heat will determine the start line for the finals. The heats will be 15 minutes plus 5 laps. The women’s final will be 30 minutes plus 5 laps and the men’s will be 40 minutes plus 5 laps.”
Although Canada has a world-class fixed gear crit racer with Raphaela Lemieux, the sport isn’t developing as fast as elsewhere “Canada is always a little behind. However, Montreal is on the forefront. We have a small series and the iBike Crit which allowing for the scene to grow and develop. We are hoping for the sanctioning bodies to accept the sport is a unique discipline and start organizing races for the growing.”
All eyes will of course be on recent RHC winner Raphaela Lemieux. However, other strong riders will also make their way to Montreal. “Montreal and Quebec has a very strong cycling community and history. The local riders are strong. I am very happy to a strong rider like Brian Megens making the trip from Europe for the race. This will give our race international credibility and will hopefully be a reason for other riders to start making Montreal a fixed gear race destination. Brian is definitely a favourite but it won’t be a huge surprise if he is not able to hit podium with riders like Addison Zawada, Nicolas Cote, and of course our very own Raphaela Lemieux we are going to have a world class field of fixed gear racers!
Why is the Jackalopefest so special? “Montreal is beautiful multicultural city! There are multiple vibrant cultural communities throughout the city. (…) The festival brings crowds and crews from different sports together (…) We all compete and practice extreme nature sports, why not bring us all together for a full weekend of fun!”