Manhattan cyclist Neil Bezdek rolled his way to victory Saturday night in the first leg of the Red Hook Criterium — a four-part international cycling series that began as a Brooklyn street race.
Bezdek wowed a crowd of thousands that gathered to watch cyclists tear around the three-quarter-mile track in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal on brakeless, single-speed bikes, edging out second-place finisher Evan Murphy by a single second with a time of 41 minutes and 32 seconds.
“It felt amazing,” said the 28-year-old longtime cyclist who works for the Department of Transportation’s bike-share program. “In a race like the Red Hook Crit, decision-making, risk-taking and bike-handling is as important as fitness.”
Murphy won a Red Hook Crit event in Milan last year after colliding with Bezdek, making this year’s victory extra sweet.
“To come back and get the best of Evan this year felt rather poetic,” said Bezdek, who is now in first place in the Red Hook Crit’s first-ever point-based championship series.
The next leg of the race is on June 8 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and then it’s off to Barcelona, Spain on Aug. 24 for another contest, and a finale in Milan, Italy in early October.
The first leg went smoothly, despite a handful of minor crashes, said race organizer David Trimble.
“Right now I’m just tired, happy, and relieved that the first race of the championship is a success,” said Trimble. “It’s hard to comprehend how close the next round is but with the crew behind the Crit and the lessons learned at this event we’ll make it even better.”