This week Red Hook Crit will wrap up the 2017 series with Milano No. 8. The 10th Anniversary season for the series hasn’t disappointed yet and expectations remain high for Milano. As the races get faster year after year, the series has continued to attract some of the best talent across the globe. This year was no exception with teams stacking their rosters with an impressive mix of athletes. In fact, if the RHC Barcelona yearbook handed out superlatives, “Most Likely to Turn Heads” would go to dark horse Kevin Girkins from Intelligentsia Racing.
Text: Sarah Bartlett
It may have been Girkins’s first fixed gear race and first-time racing in Europe, but you would never have known based on his 6th place qualifier finish and 7th place overall in the final. The Austin, Texas local is no stranger to competitive cycling. In fact, the number of top 10 finishes on Kevin’s USA Cycling results page is overwhelming. A few of his top achievements include a 2nd place finish at Elite Nationals (2015), a stage win at Chico Stage Race where he also earned the sprinters jersey (2017), 2nd at Rouge Roubaix (2017), 2nd at Gravel Worlds (2017), and 4th place overall in the GC and winner of the Best Amateur jersey at North Star Grand Prix (2017).
Girkins’s geared racing is where he became close friends with his Elbowz Racing teammate and 2016 RHC Series Champion, Colin Strickland. “I had a different way of telling each person on the team that they were my favorite person – Colin was my favorite friend when it came to off the bike stuff. I have a lot of respect for his thoughts and ideals, and we both race very similarly, so we were instant friends,” Girkins said.
It was Strickland’s success and love of fixed gear racing that convinced Girkins to pack his bags and fly half way across the world to Barcelona last month to join the Intelligentsia Racing team. Strickland spent 2017 growing the now four-man team (other teammates include Cesar Valenzuela and Marius Petrache) and Barcelona was the team’s first chance to shake things up together. “I had never met Cesar or Marius before, so some of that was just going to be on the fly. The thought was, we know what we are supposed to do as a team and as cyclists, and let’s just go from there,” said Girkins.
While most athletes might be hesitant at the idea of their first fixed gear brakeless race, Girkins knew exactly what he needed to do. “I had an idea of what Colin wanted from me and what he wanted to happen in the race, so there wasn’t a whole lot that needed to be said,” Girkins shared.
With RHC Milano quickly approaching, Girkins sounds confident with the team’s strategy. “Milan is not as technical so that might change the way certain teams act, but ultimately our goals are the same. We want to see a breakaway if possible and we want to win. If not, we just really want to be animators of the race,” said Girkins. “Getting a final result is not nearly as important as animating the race. I see myself as a team player, so long as one of us does well, that’s the end goal.”
Girkins may have entered the RHC scene relatively unknown, but his take on being the dark horse from Barcelona helps put it in perspective. “They may not know who I am but I also don’t know who they are, so everybody is an equal threat,” he said rather matter-of-factly. That doesn’t mean that Girkins isn’t on the lookout for some of his team’s biggest competition. “If there was one team I would watch out for it would be Specialized,” Girkins said, “In Barcelona, the Specialized Team and Intelligentsia Team were obviously watching each other the whole race. I would expect the same thing for Milan.”
Perhaps the most appealing part of Girkins’s outlook on RHC is his overall joyous attitude towards the series and the competition. The fierce competitor is prepared to contribute to the team effort by animating the race, but Girkins knows that RHC is more than just the race. As Girkins put it, “It’s all business on the course, but afterwards it’s all about having fun and going to the after party.”