Search

Pretty. Damned. Fast. was founded in Brooklyn, New York, but our love for cycling and our contributors are worldwide. Want to contribute, advertise, or just say hi? Shoot us an email or visit us on Instagram.

The Olympics of Fixed Gear Racing: Fixed Nations Cup

The Olympics of Fixed Gear Racing: Fixed Nations Cup

Fixed Nations Cup is a bi-annual race that brings together the top fixed gear riders from around the world to compete in a series of three events, experimenting with a format beyond the typical closed-circuit criterium. Riders qualified throughout the 2018 season by earning points at a select number of fixed gear criteriums. The top five riders from each country traveled to Dijon to compete in a series of three events: a team time trial, hill climb, and a standard crit.

We asked a few racers to share their experience for the inaugural edition of the event.

Evelyn Gagnon, Team Canada / Shadow Elite Racing
Lynn Kennedy, Team USA / She Wolf Attack Team (SWAT)
Lina Bivainyte, Team Lithuania / Thunder Cats
Ana Puga, Team Mexico

 
Photo: Daniel Saurion

Photo: Daniel Saurion

Evelyn Gagnon, Team Canada / Shadow Elite Racing

Tell us about your background. How did you get started with racing in general and fixed gear racing specifically?

I started cycling when I was about 14 years old, to do something during the summer and keep my shape for cross country skiing. At first, I wasn't really good, I got dropped at every race I did until I was 16 years old!! But in my mind, giving up wasn't an option. My favorite kind of race was the time trial because I didn't need to bother about other people!

Slowly, I began to like road races and finally, I made peace with crits by winning the Quebec Crit Championship when I was 21. Some people found it difficult to believe me when I said I bought a fixed gear bike and was heading to Red Hook Milan last fall. In fact, I don't really understand what came to my mind when I decided to go there! My friends were doing the Red Hook Crit and I wanted to try something new, so I jumped in that new adventure and liked it right away!

What's been the biggest challenge you faced coming into this race (or just in general as a racer)?

My biggest challenge, in general, is my confidence in the peloton. I have to say that racing without brakes in a pack of 50 women and a lot of turns makes me sick just thinking about it! About the Fixed Nations Cup, one of the biggest challenges was cornering well and have confidence, since I didn't have a lot of time to ride my fixed gear bike.

Photo: Daniel Saurion

Photo: Daniel Saurion

Tell us more about the format of the race weekend. Which event did you like the most and least, and why?

The format of the race was awesome because traveling to Europe takes so long from Canada that going there for 3 races is worth the trip! I really enjoyed the team time trial since it's very rare that we can do that kind of race and you have to communicate very well with your teammate. The uphill was very different and the gear choices were very important!

What was the thing that surprised you most about this event or community around it?

The thing that surprised me the most was the very awesome organization for a first-time race like that! We didn't know what to expect and the organization did an amazing job, we had all we needed and even more!

 
Photo: Daniel Saurion

Photo: Daniel Saurion

What do you love most about fixed gear racing?

The PEOPLE!!! Everybody is so nice and talk to each other. We can see that the fixed gear community is welcoming and kind!

Cycling-wise, is there anything you're working on back home? (an event, race, etc.)

I have some races back home on the road and also Para Cycling Road Nationals, as I'm a tandem pilot for a blind athlete. Other than that, I will continue to work on my fixed gear skills and improve so I could be better next time :)

Evelyne took third in the uphill race and won the team trial with Team Canada! Follow Evelyne and her team @shadoweliteracing on Instagram.


We also loved to see a group of riders from different countries unite to take on the team event together.

Photo: Dorine Aellen

Photo: Dorine Aellen

Lynn Kennedy, Team USA / She Wolf Attack Team (SWAT)

Tell us about your background. How did you get started with racing in general and fixed gear racing specifically?

I started racing fixed gear in Los Angeles in 2007. My first fixed gear race was the Wolfpack Hustle drag race. Then I started racing alley cats and eventually got certified to race at the track.

What's been the biggest challenge you faced coming into this race (or just in general as a racer)?

The biggest challenge I faced coming into this race was my mental state and nerves. I was feeling intimidated by the European teams and also once I previewed the course for the crit I became even more nervous because some of the technical parts were a bit narrower in the turns than what I am used to. I was feeling very nervous and not very confident. My body went into fight or flight mode and pretty much went into the flight mode.

Tell us more about the format of the race weekend. Which event did you like the most and least, and why?

The race weekend consisted of the team time trial, crit, and uphill climb. For the team time trial, I was the only US woman able to make it for that day so I ended up getting together with other women from other countries to create an International women's team for the team time trial. The team time trial and the uphill climb races were my favorite. I enjoyed the team time trial because we came together on the fly to do the event together and I enjoyed the uphill climb because I got a good start and it was a fast climb.

The crit was my least favorite event, but only because I got in my head and was not able to get over the fear I was feeling. I had a good position from the start line, but as soon as the race started instead of trying to move up from the very beginning I held back and then tried to move up later but I had already lost a lot of positions.

For the team events, you created an international team. How did you find each other/organize that?

Maxime, the Fixed Nations Cup race director, actually suggested for me to link up with Ana Puga from Mexico and Kazuyo Kodama from Japan to do the team time trial. Funny coincidence is that I was already friends with both of them so it was super easy to ask them and made perfect sense. On the day of the team time trial Ana suggested to also add her friend Lina B., who represented Lithuania, and we were like hell yeah!


What was the thing that surprised you most about this event or community around it?

I was surprised by how well the teams were taken care of by this event. Not only was the event well organized. Fixed Nations Cup also provided accommodations & some complimentary meals for the teams. Maxime and his volunteers were all so friendly and helpful.


What's one piece of advice you would offer new or intermediate racers?

One piece of advice I would offer to new or intermediate racers is that racing is a never-ending learning curve. You can always improve as a racer and learn from mistakes. Every race is a learning experience.

Lina, Lynn, Ana, and Kazuyo. Photo: FXD FWD

Lina, Lynn, Ana, and Kazuyo. Photo: FXD FWD


Would you race Fixed Nations again? What do you love most about fixed gear racing?

I would definitely race Fixed Nations Cup again! I love the community of fixed gear racing the most. Fixed gear racers know how to push themselves and are competitive yet still know how to have fun and be cool. I love how fun and passionate the fixed gear community is.

Cycling-wise, is there anything you're working on back home? (an event, race, etc.)

This June is the 6 year anniversary of my WTF/NB team SheWolfAttackTeam (SWAT). I am a founding member and co-captain our track team. We will be working on organizing a group ride to end with food and drinks to celebrate the anniversary.

Follow Lynn and her team @shewolfattackteam on Instagram.


Photo by FXD FWD

Photo by FXD FWD

Lina Bivainyte, Team Lithuania / Thunder Cats

Tell us about your background. How did you get started with racing in general and fixed gear racing specifically?

I’m from Lithuania and currently live in London where I work for an organic food business and ride bikes. It wasn’t until around four years ago that I actually picked up a bike through a “cycle to work” scheme and the rest is history! I decided to start commuting to work and the guy I was seeing at the time taught me about fixed gear bikes and why they are awesome. He gave me an article to read by Sheldon Brown and it completely made sense to me. I got hooked pretty quickly and never looked back.

Pretty sure my first ever race was the first edition of London Red Hook Crit, which is a bit ballsy. I remember wanting to try it, but I was scared. My friend Marigold said, “If you’re going to do it, then I will too,” so we entered! For those who don’t know, it’s the biggest fixed gear criterium in the world, full of strong amazing athletes, so obviously this was slightly intimidating but also such an epic experience. We finished and there were many times I thought I was about to die, but I also just wanted to do it again and again. What a crazy first race!

What's been the biggest challenge you faced coming into this race (or just in general as a racer)?

There is a lot of inequality when it comes to women’s racing and most of the time we fear that the field might be too small, so the organizers will not put as much effort into it or just cancel it altogether. However, with Fixed Nations Cup in Dijon, this was not the case as every national team would be represented no matter what.

The only issue was that the international team only had 2 women who came to race it, so we ended up teaming up with Lynn from the US and Kazuyo from Japan to get the number up to 4. This would be enough to participate in the team time trial (or so we thought!). I would say for some of the races, it is the numbers game that tends to be one of the bigger challenges at the moment.

Tell us more about the format of the race weekend. Which event did you like the most and least, and why?

Fixed Nations Cup consisted of three days and three types of different racing - team time trial, fixed gear crit, and a hill climb. For me, it was definitely the crit that was the most fun. I love racing with all the strong women and pushing myself and my abilities to the limit. I enjoy the technical parts but this time we had three hairpins, one after another. Talk about technical!

On the other hand, our time trial didn’t go so well and was my least favourite. The circuit was around 7km long and after doing a sighting lap, we decided to put ourselves in order which we would start. This wasn’t easy at all, as none of us raced with each other before or knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

With Ana Puga leading it, I jumped on her wheel, but we went a little too hard and it was difficult to get all of us close as we opened up a gap. We kept on pushing regardless and I seriously burned out by the time we turned left and all of the headwind was in front of us. Kazuyo and Ana continued to the finish line like the badass racers that they are! Super proud of their effort.

Photo: FXD FWD

Photo: FXD FWD

What was the thing that surprised you most about this event or community around it?

Just the share hospitality and organisation of the event organisers. I cannot thank enough Maxime and everyone involved in this amazing race series. Never before have I been given free accommodation with breakfast, custom skinsuits and jerseys, as well as an epic goody bag! And that’s all if you’ve qualified for a national or international team. Not only that, but I’ve also made friends and awesome memories traveling to and from Dijon.

What's one piece of advice you would offer new or intermediate racers?

Get comfortable on your bike, do some practise beforehand and you will go into the race feeling more confident, so fewer nerves and more fun times.

Would you race Fixed Nations again? What do you love most about fixed gear racing?

Without a doubt! I hope we can make it to the next one, which I believe will be in 2 years now.

I honestly think that the best thing about racing fixed gear crits is the community we have around us - everyone feels welcome. It’s definitely more inviting than some other cycling types like road racing for instance. I have met amazing people all over the world through racing fixed bikes and cannot be more grateful for this experience.

Photo: FXD FWD

Photo: FXD FWD

Cycling-wise, is there anything you're working on back home? (an event, race, etc.)

Well, we are trying to make most of the European and local crits with my team NLTCBMBC (that’s North London Thundercat Black Metal Bicycle Club for you). Like last year, we have also organised Thundercrit and have a seaside edition of this coming up on the 27th of July in Eastbourne, UK. So that will be mega exciting. This is our version of Red Hook Crit Barcelona. We sadly cannot expect the same weather as in Spain, but who knows! So if you feel like you want to give it a go, check our social media channels for more info. See you there!

Follow Lina and her team North London Thundercat Black Metal Bicycle Club on Instagram.


Lynn and Ana. Photo: FXD FWD

Lynn and Ana. Photo: FXD FWD

Ana Puga, Team Mexico

Tell us about your background. How did you get started with racing in general and fixed gear racing specifically?

I used to cycle my way to work, and eventually made friends that got me into racing. Once, I accidentally won a local crit that made me think it would be a good idea to try luck at a Red Hook Crit. Ever since, I’ve been training locally as an elite rider to be competitive in international fixed gear races. 

What's been the biggest challenge you faced coming into this race (or just in general as a racer)?

Fundraising and sponsorship issues. There are no fixed gear races in Mexico, so it is difficult to make my way around while riding without a team and limited – but really loyal – sponsors. Sometimes I don’t make it to races because I couldn’t get the money to buy the airline ticket. 


Tell us more about the format of the race weekend. Which event did you like the most and least, and why?

I did like all of the events. The circuit was quite challenging and it was so rad to have Dijon’s airport runway as a venue!

For the team events, you created an international team. How did you find each other/organize that?

We’ve never ridden together as a team, so it was a little awkward to pinpoint our skills. I also had a mechanical at the crit and couldn’t ride along with Lina the way I would liked to. 

What was the thing that surprised you most about this event or community around it? 

Having national teams made us work differently. As a lone traveler/racer it was easier to talk to everyone since they weren’t that hermetic as if they had their regular teammates around :)

What's one piece of advice you would offer new or intermediate racers?

There is never a bad result – you learn from it. in racing, having a strong mind is as important as physical training. Don’t defeat yourself before even starting.

Would you race Fixed Nations again? What do you love most about fixed gear racing?

Absolutely! Funny thing is that fixed gear racing has made me travel to places I could just imagine before. I love traveling with a simple bike and getting to be peers with people I look up to! Even elite racing (at least in my home country) is not that friendly!

Cycling-wise, is there anything you're working on back home? (an event, race, etc.)

I promised myself to push the fixed gear scene in Mexico and I’m looking for partners / organizers to work with to bring a race to town or build a whole event from scratch. I am also planning and giving training camps for beginners, so I do have tons of work ahead. 

Ana earned second in the uphill race! Follow Ana on Instagram.


Follow @fixednationscup on Instagram to follow the journey to 2021!

Review: Castelli's Redesigned Summer Kit

Review: Castelli's Redesigned Summer Kit

Exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains with the Juliana Bike Quincy

Exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains with the Juliana Bike Quincy

0
Search