To properly capture the RHC Racer’s POV we’ve partnered with Specialized’s five-man RHC super team: Specialized/Rocket Espresso. We’re talking about Aldo Ino Ilesic (Slovenia), Eamon Lucas (USA), Alec Briggs (UK), Stefan Schäfer (Germany), and Akinori Yamamura (Japan); an international hit squad of RHC specialists with the express goal of taking the overall championship. To better understand their individual and team motivations, hopes, dreams, wants, needs and desires, as they relate (and don’t relate) to the RHC, MFS is going DEEP. We will live with them, sleep with them, follow them, eat with them, race with them, talk with them, video them, photograph them, write about them, etc etc etc. If we can mind meld with them, we’ll do it.
PSA FOR ALL RHC LONDON PARTICIPANTS!
II Twenty-and-Twelve Questions with Alec Briggs
01 – What’s your name? Age? Hometown? Current Residence?
Alec Briggs, 23, London. Currently live at my parents house, haha. I can’t afford to move out, at least not with the cake I want to have and eat.
02 – What/how/why/when did you start riding bikes?
Riding around the garden of the house I live in now when I was two years old, pretending to be a motorbike rider—a speedway rider to be precise. The American Billy Hamill was my hero.
After wearing out the garden at about eight, I went to Herne Hill Veldrome which is thankfully a ten minute cycle from me. Russell Williams got me going around the track and Bill Wright & co. got me shredding around the MTB circuit there. Basically spent my childhood there, and now I’m currently spending most of my adult life there. I’m a pretty lucky kid.
03 – What are your cycling career High Points? Awards, palmarès, life defining moments, wins, religious experiences, etc. Make a list. Don’t be shy.
Straight up, being selected for GB to ride the Junior European cyclocross champs is something I’ll never stop reminding everyone of, that was like a dream come true. Putting on the skinsuit in the hotel room for the first time blew my mind, went like shit at the race though. I can never thank Scott, Stuart, Nigel, Allister, Graham, Grant and about a million other top folks for really helping me on next levels that year. This probably isn’t the place to say it, but I’ll take any chance I can to say I’ve never made riding bikes a thing of mine on my own and that I basically owe my life to hundreds of people that have helped me to become the pretty average cyclist I am today that gets more opportunities to ride than he probably should.
Back to the list bit:
- Turning up to a MTB ride with my coach and his friends when I was 14 to ride trails in lycra on a XC bike with the saddle up. Coach’s friends looked at me like, “Bwah, this kid is gonna die today” and then gaining their respect by doing a drop a little while in; now they’re all life long friends. That was a big day in my cycling life.
- Raffa Maccari asking me to race RHC with him in 2015. Again, gained a life long friend and many more from him asking me to come ride bikes with him. Love that guy.
04 – What are your cycling career Low Points? Crashes, mistakes, fuck-ups, etc. Make a list.
Haha I’m an idiot way too often. Best one was when, on the outlap of a local road crit, I started weaving left to right like I was warming my tyres up on a motorbike. Sometimes I’m just in fantasy land. No one crashed or anything, but still. Won the race though.
05 – Do you have a day job? If so what is it? How does it make you a better racer? How does racing make you better at your day job?
Yes, and a night job. Night is DJing, making people dance is fun. I was on that 9-5 life for the past year doing marketing for the light company Blaze. Now I’ve just gone freelance and I’m in the process of setting up my own company for Marketing Consulting in the cycling world. My mind is pretty bonkers and creative sometimes, it would be good to put it to some proper use. So www.alecbriggs.com coming soon to an internet near you; if you need your company heard in a jazzy unorthodox way, hit me up. I’ll get tandems and do wall rides on the velodrome track fence whilst Bradley Wiggins and co. are chilling after winning world titles. Haha, why I’ve gone freelance—to do less work and ride more whilst working at the same time—maybe doesn’t help. It will work.
06 – Manual for Speed thinks of the Red Hook Criterium series as the future of cycling. It’s urban, it’s gladiatorial, it’s thrilling, it’s colorful, it’s a knife fight. Cycling fans and non-cyclists think it’s thrilling. To us it represents an evolution of bicycle racing. What do you think about this idea? What makes these races so special?
Basically it’s the UFC of cycling. You can be racing World Tour with the big dogs, come to RHC, and get your ass kicked by a messenger with more tekkers on a fixie than Hans Ray and Sagan put together. It’s a gnarly sport, it’s great cut throat racing and every dog can have it’s day—there are no domestiques. Basically you need it all, more than any other discipline, different courses suit different people. Fuck you and your watts clicking down the block. You need skill, technique, strength, speed, panache and an ability to party to do well in this world. If you win the race, you need to be able to try to win the after party, too.
07 – Why do you care about racing? Why is it important to you?
Probably an ego thing. I love the split second decisions you need to make, trying your luck, going bar to bar with friends, enemies, all sorts. I like putting on a show and impressing people too. Yeah, it’s deffo an ego thing. My favorite bit though is using my skills against others to try and win the race. I’ve never been mega strong or powerful, and RHC gives me an opportunity to use my skills—the first of which I like to think is cornering—to stick it to those big power houses and have a real battle, it’s awesome. It’s like real life video game to me.
08 – How do RHCs compare to regular crit racing? How do RHCs compare to World Tour stage racing?
Got to be more on it than a regular crit, can’t relax. Things change so quickly, there are a couple hundred guys all with a different arsenal of skills. Power and watts mean nowhere near as much at RHC, race craft and a combination of it all shines through. I’ve never raced World Tour stages so I don’t know how it compares, but I can tell you RHC is a lot shorter than the Tour de France.
09 – Do you think of yourself as a “gladiator of the street?” If not why not?
Haha, nah way man. Just some kid getting about on a bike. I like taking my chances fitting through gaps between cars and the odd wheelie though, just makes the commute fun. I’ve got nothing on those guys messaging for a living or riding Monster Track etc. though, those guys are nuts! Fair play to them, they’re a different breed I don’t quite understand so can only really have respect for.
10 – What’s the one thing you wish fans and non-racers understood about racing the RHC?
The guy who could win with brakes and more importantly gears won’t necessarily win a fixed crit like RHC. It’s a whole different race, that’s why I love it.
11 – What would make RHCs even better?
Haha I don’t know, Trimble and the crew got it down. I love it. The new qualifying system with heat races sounds rad this year, nice that everyone gets a chance to race.
12 – In what ways are RHCs similar to the new Mad Max movie? Or any Mad Max movie?
Ah bra, I ain’t seen it, and I’m already late on sending this interview in.
13 – We imagine that you’ve raced non-fixed gear criteriums as well. What are the big differences between these two styles of racing? In terms of speed, strategy, time of day? Promotion? Location? Media? Vibes?
You’ve got to hit the racing lines a lot more consistently and be efficient with your effort in fixed crits. Can’t go dive bombing up the inside and slam on the brakes, you need to really be able to ride a bike, which is nice and refreshing. Vibes are great, I’m not one of the original guys of fixed crit racing by any means, I’m 2015 and I hope I shine the right light on all this. There are plenty of originals about: proper chilled, pretty gnarly in their own unique way, creative, up for a party, up for something different and not being so uptight, it’s great! To think Trimble started this ten years ago is amazing, brought so many creative OG guys and girls to one place at a time over the years. To have seen and be involved in a small part of that is a big honour. Straight away when I met everyone whilst I was working at the Oakley In Residence during RHC LDN 01 people were nice and welcoming. Particularly Alfred, Marc, Jeremy, Tobias, John, all those guys, what dons. There’s plenty of new guys coming in across from the very clinical pro scene too and they’re just as much jokes. Loic and Moser, what legends. Seems like everyone in the media is pretty insta savvy.
14 – Is there a different sense of risk vs reward in the RHC races? What’s on the line for you as a racer?
Haha yeah, I’ve never crashed in a road race or geared crit since I was eight. Crashed in both Barcelona races I’ve done, but tbh, it goes with what makes it so fun and rewarding to ride. I’d love to win one. Might dig real deep at LDN 03 this year.
15 – What about fixed gear racing makes it more interesting than geared bike racing?
You got the jist by now, corners, no gears and no breaks. Makes awesome racing in my books.
16 – Tell us about bike handling, reading a race, and fitness. How do you think about them as they apply to RHC racing? How are they different from regular crits?
Geared crits you can blag most with fitness and strength, not in RHC. Skills need to match your fitness.
17 – What about the event itself? These races have a party atmosphere. Lots of action going on before, during, and after the race. Are you into it? Do think it’s an important part of the culture of these races?
Definitely. It’s what makes the race so brilliant, the social part of RHC is RHC in my opinion, the friends I’ve made and get to party with before and after sharing a track with is just like no other, I adore it.
18 – How intense is the contact between you and other riders when you’re out there on the course? If possible please use a metaphor to describe the feeling of this contact.
Like Ricky Bobby saying grace.
19 – What metaphor best describes the feeling of the race in general? For example: Scorpion Rumble, Badger Brawl, A Storm of Falling Glass, etc.
Basically it’s like Homer walking through the snow in the Simpsons movie. “Yes you can,” “No I can’t.”
20 – Speaking of gladiatorial combat, what is your favorite action movie fight scene?
You ever seen Ong-Bak?! That movie is so jokes. When the bad guy goes and injects himself with like 17 needles full of steroids into his chest, and you’re just there like rah, guy’s going HAM. Then Ong-Bak fucks him up, so good. I find it hard to make my peace with cheaters and people doping. What I do like about RHC is that the fitness, strength physical thing isn’t so important, so if there are some chiefs out there drugging up, I’ve still got a decent chance of beating them as opposed to getting annihilated up some straight road climb. Race clean man, it’s the best, best person wins.
21 – What is your biggest fear? What is your biggest hope?
Don’t really have a fear in all honesty. I guess that I might have to work more to make my way and ride a bike less. Biggest hope, in the RHC world of hopes, is to win one I guess, why not, that be amazing. Would hope to be able to put something back into the scene and keep it progressing whilst retaining everything that’s beautiful about the events too.
22 – What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in a race? Don’t be shy, just own it. Dish.
Put my hands up too early then got rolled on the line by Alex Peters. Won’t forget that or ever do it again.
And OH SHIT! Check this out, when I was 16 I dressed up as a certain cycling TV personality, Anna Glowinski (she even leant me her skinsuit, with which I did wear shorts underneath), for a Halloween-themed cyclocross race put on by Rolla Paluza. ‘Muddy Hell’ it was called. So I tried hopping the 40cm planks, just as it was becoming a thing, like only two or three pros were doing this at the time. I ended up like this…
23 – What’s the best thing you’ve ever done in a race? Tell us all about it!!!!!
I wasn’t very well for the Milan race last year, so I went off the back and did wheelies, that was funny. Oh and to right my wrongs on the last question… I got some airtime in the same race, and the following year managed to hop them (but as a tiger that time).
24 – Speaking of fear, one a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, how afraid are you when you’re racing in one of these events? Please explain.
In my first ever RHC about 5, a good nervous excitement of, “Rah this is so fricking cool and gnarly at the same time.”
Going back to Brooklyn last year after breaking my collarbone at Barcelona RHC the year before, about an eight. I was being such a wimp, not defending my lines, people flying up the inside, I was just scared man, it’s cutthroat.
25 – If you weren’t racing the RHC series what would you be doing?
Probably be less of a cyclist, RHC gave me a whole extra bunch of motivation to go out and enjoy bikes, since then I’ve been riding a lot more and faster.
26 – Is racing the RHC series your dream? If not what’s your dream? Tell us about your dream.
Dream would probably be to race Moto GP, now that’s a life! But RHC ain’t as far off as one would think.
27 – Do you have non-bike, non-athletic related hobbies/interests? If so what are they?
Love spending all my money on records and pretending to be a DJ.
28 – Do you have a power animal? If not you should, please assign yourself one. What is it? Why?
Shit you not, there’s a dinosaur called an Alec-trosaursus. It was part of the T. Rex family and it had feathers, I’d like to think the feathers were ginger too. But I’m not that cool to be a T. Rex I don’t think. Though my friends joke about me being one because I’ve got such a bad upright position on a bike, I blame it on small arms… yeah, okay, it’s a T.rex.
29 – What do you like most about your bike? Get specific.
Haven’t got it yet, but I’ve seen pictures and it has orange in it. Sold. I’ve got the road version too, that’s amazing.
30 – What do you like most about your sponsors? Go big and get specific!
Have to say, it’s been agreed amongst my riding buddies before, if there was one company that we could be fully sponsored by it would be Specialized. I love all sorts of bikes and I ride / race all of them at a considerable level and Spesh are at the top of all those disciplines with their bikes and equipment, pretty impressive really. Seeing their creativity going into this project first hand is pretty mad and all.
Been working with Oakley for a while now as well, best looking glasses out there, best performing too. Word on the street is they’re getting some bad boy in-house customisation too. I like it that Shimano make fishing rods too, I hope if I do really well I’ll get one. Don’t want to catch anything, just sit there and look the part. I’ve got a lot of friends who love coffee, so Rocket Espresso will sort me out for birthday presents.
31 – What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done, or thought about doing? Yes, we are going to publish this but that’s not relevant right now. More importantly, this is therapeutic. We’re asking this for your own good. Please take a solid step outside your comfort zone and tell us something you’ve never told anyone before. Trust, reach deep, it’s part of the process.
I don’t think I have anything worth mentioning, I’m actually disappointed in myself. To be honest, I do strange things all too often that the strange to most seems pretty normal to me. I’ll think hard and get back to you sooner. If I don’t, we’ll think of something strange for me to do, deal?
32 – Maybe you have a hero all lined up for this question, maybe you don’t. Either way, who is your hero and why? It does NOT need to be an athlete, but it’s okay if it is.
Martyn Ashton. Positivity on a next level, he’s a fantastic human. Just read what he has to say, especially the one where he’s describing his thought process after he crashed, inspirational.
Speed! Chaos! Thrills! Real Cities! The RHC is an international series of highly specialized races which showcase and demonstrate the purest, rawest and most exciting exhibition of speed cycling has to offer. It’s part NASCAR, part Professional Rodeo, part Fight Club, part Friday Night lights, part modern-day gladiators, and ALL SPEED! Get your duds right before RHC London this Saturday!
III Fun Facts with Alec Briggs
WHOOSH is made possible by:
Artwork by Michiel Schuurman.