Filippo Fortin is known in the fixed gear scene for his impressive victory in Red Hook Crit London No.3 wherein he beat the whole field by taking and maintaining the lead for the last half lap. Besides being a fixed gear crit rider for Bahumer Racing, Fortin earns a living as a professional UCI road cyclist which he is since 2011. One of his highlights in his road career is the 6th place in the UCI U23 World Championships in 2011 in Denmark. Other impressive results are the 12 UCI wins in 1.2 and 2.2 UCI category races. After 4 years as a UCI Pro-Continental rider, Fortin took a step back level wise and since 2015 he is active on the UCI Continental level in which Fortin currently represents the Tirol Cycling Team. That this was a good move is proven by the fact that he started to win a lot of races on that level, often in sprints. We talked with the 28 year old Italian based in Pernumia to find out about how he got into fixed gear crit racing, how he experienced RHC London No.3 and its wet conditions, and what his goals for the Red Hook Crit series are.
Text: Brian Megens
Fortin got in touch with fixed gear cycling a week prior to Red Hook Criterium Milano No.7 through Bahumer Racing, as he tried a fixed gear bike on the road for the first time. A week later he participated in RHC Milano No.7 representing Bahumer Racing and did that with a very impressive 4th place just missing the podium in the sprint after battling with former team mate Aldo Ino Ilesic.
Despite the good start on a fixed gear bike his second RHC turned out to be a disappointment result wise. “I was frustrated because I had the legs to be on the podium but I crashed in the last lap. I know that it now is a lot more difficult to win the RHC series, I took only 3 points in Brooklyn from winning my qualification heat.” However, his goal remains the same as it was at the start of the season, “I want to win the RHC series.”
In the week before London Filippo felt that he was in a good shape, and he went to London with one goal in mind “I wanted to win in London to try re-open the RHC series. There’s only one way to do that: Winning!” As Fortin is a pro-road cyclist he did not spent a lot of time riding his fixed gear bike “My training was almost on the road bike because between RHC BK10 and RHC L3 I had a lot of Pro races. Only a week before London I did Coppa Agostoni Crit (which he won) to take familiar another time with my Ridewill fixed gear Bike.”
In London Fortin wasn’t only focussed on winning the main race but he was fully aware of the advantages that can come with doing well in the qualification heat. “The heats are always very difficult. I needed to stay focus like in the final also because I needed the 3 points. My tactics was win the heat to take points also for my mates to make me to gain points on rivals in the championship. I think we are the only team that have a plan for the heats. ” Filippo was one of the few riders that didn’t get bothered by the rain “For sure if it was sunny and there was dry asphalt it was better. But the rain for me isn’t a problem. I try to go fast in every situation.” However, he was alert on the implications that the wet conditions had on the race. “I thought it would be a hard race and it was better to stay always in the first positions for avoid risks. The tactics has remained always the same. We needed to stay in front of the bunch to control the attack of big riders.”
In the heat Filippo felt already comfortable which was shown by his second RHC qualification heat win in a row. “I had a good feeling with the materials like gear ratio, tire pressure, bike position and with the new track. I felt we’ll to try to win.” While many geared down and had less pressure in their tires, Filippo did not. “I spoke with our mechanic and we decided to inflate the tire to 7-7.5 bars (100-115PSI). I had 47×13 gear radio both in qualifying and in the final until I had a puncture.” Filippo also was both unlucky as lucky at the same time in the final as he got a flat just before the red flag was raised. This meant that he had the chance to change the wheel without having to put in the big effort of chasing down the field. “I needed to change the rear wheel because I had a puncture in the lap when the red flag has been waved. In this occasion I was very lucky.”
The red flag situation is always decided upon by race director David Trimble with pain in his heart but always with the clear goal of riders safety in mind. However, unintentionally the red flag situation in London turned out to be a decisive moment for several riders as it allowed them to fix their mechanical flaw which without the red flag could have meant the end of their race. Filippo was one of those riders. “After the race I saw videos of the crash that caused the red flag situation, I was in the front in that moment and I didn’t see it during the race, and for me it was the best solution regarding the safety. There were some bike and riders in the middle of the track.” When asked about material changes in the race “Why not? If you can change bike or wheels before of the arrival of first motorbike you can try to return to the bunch. I think it is not good to miss points because you cannot change the wheels or bike.”
After the puncture and the restart Filippo was riding 47×14 instead of 47×13 as “ we did not have time to change also the gear and we only had a 14 sprocket rear wheel. However, it was perfect for my tactics: I wanted to start my sprint in the last lap and made the difference in the straights. The plan was to pay attention at the attacks of Strickland, Viganò and the team Rocket espresso-Specialized and in the end I did my sprint to take the victory (…) I attacked in the last straight road on the last lap because I saw Strickland had a small gap, but it wasn’t only instinct I had this plan in my mind before the race and I tried it also in the heat. I wanted to start my sprint after corner 2 (…) My team-mates supported me great, they were fantastic and I have to thank them a lot.”