Thundercrit is the UK’s biggest fixed gear crit race. Organised by North London Thundercats cycling team, the latest Thundercrit took place recently on 31st July and 1st August this year, at Herne Hill velodrome. The Thundercats talked us through the weekend’s action:
After a hiatus from racing in 2020 the long awaited Thundercrit 5 made its triumphant return with a twist in not only the format but also our race categories. In its 5th evolution we decided to do things a little differently than previous editions, with a fast-paced 2 day test of skill and strength that really showcased all aspects of fixed gear riding. Making a new home at Herne Hill Velodrome, every inch of track and inner circuit were used for this exciting spectacle.
The Race Categories
This year Thundercrit opened up its categories to be more inclusive and get everyone onto the track for the race. A gender inclusive and non-binary system, with athletes seeded based on ability, provided a space for all riders to race, regardless of gender identity. We are incredibly proud of this new system as a team and hope that our initiative can be carried forward to other races and race organisers in the future. There were 2 categories – Thunder and Lightning, those whose physical ability aligned with cis-gender men and those with cis-gender women, respectively.
Thundercrit 5 moved venues and Rob, our race creator, came up with a devious system to test all aspects of fixed gear riding and use every inch of Herne Hill. Day 1 was a test of skill, a short circuit that was only 400m long but had 15 corners and 5 lap maximum races. Day 2 was a real test of power with a circuit that included 2 laps of the 400m velodrome and the inner circuit, coming in at 1km with 2 ThunderPin corners sloping up and down the track. Riders would gain points for each position they had and the lowest number of points won, simply put the better you did in each race the more likely you were to win overall (a very complicated excel spreadsheet worked this out for us!).
The first day was the nail-biter that everyone was feeling a little on edge for. With some corners having only 1 safely traversable line, the opportunity for overtaking was limited. Reaching the first corner was the only guaranteed way to do well in the heats. That was all until it started raining! As the deluge began to fall, the track got a little grittier and more slippery; tyres were sliding out everywhere and everyone took on the races a little more cautiously.
With 35 races in total, almost every single one had a minor crash due to the conditions, some of the favourites were running behind and it was all to play for. Despite the weather, the exciting races were a great success and left everyone ready for the Power day.
Thankfully the Power day saw some blue skies and good conditions for a bigger gear to power riders around the circuit. The second day was more similar to standard fixed crits with 20 minute races +5 laps in the intermediate and 30 minutes + 5 in the advanced. The intermediate and advanced categories had been decided by the standings on the Saturday, with riders of a similar ability being grouped together to provide some really exciting races on the Sunday.
The twist on the standard crit format was Rob’s ThunderPins; 180 degree turns, one up the track and one down, with riders having to either power up the apex of the turn or slow down to prevent gravity from sending them into the grassy banks. With all to play for these Pins were the only place riders were banned from an overtake.
The Thunder intermediate race was exciting and saw Oli from Trash RT leading from the gun, but after an unfortunate crash the field blew open. A fast race left the riders strung out all throughout the circuit, with Si from London Velo taking the win.
The Lightning intermediate race was a very well matched race, with lots of strong riders who put on a cracking chase when Caz from the Thundercats flew off the front with a huge effort and dominated the race, winning the overall Lightning intermediate category.
The Lightning advanced race was next. After a few close calls the day before and some crashes in the intermediate races, this one was much more controlled. An early train formed with the top 5 riders and from there the race held quite tightly, until a bunch sprint left Kitty from the Thundercats crossing the line first, winning the overall Lightning advanced.
The Thunder advanced race was the finale of Thundercrit 5, an exciting race with all to play for between Dimi from the Thundercats and Sam from Clash RT. After both winning their heats on Saturday, they were neck and neck for the win in the Power race. Following an early break from Sam, the rest of the Thunder riders were on the chase with speeds around the velodrome averaging 40km/h. Sam almost slipped out on a tight corner but held it up and took home the Thundercrit bike for Clash RT.
Thundercrit was a great success despite a lower number of international riders due to Covid. After such a successful event we can’t wait for what’s next, let’s just leave it at #CrossIsComing.