In a city where college football is still king, it’s safe to refer to just about everything else as an “alternative sport”. Roller derby, Australian Football, and even professional Futbol fall into that category along side Aidan Seufert’s favorite pastime of unsanctioned fixed-gear bike racing.
Seufert is a local racer who has been training rigorously over the past several months leading up to next weekend’s Red Hook Crit, a Brooklyn-based bike race that has quickly gone from an illegal street race to a trans-Atlantic four part competition that cyclists from around the globe now have on their radars.
We spoke recently with Seufert to find out more about his passion for cycling in Columbus and why he’s competing in this upcoming race. Our full Q&A can be found below:
Q: First can you tell us a bit about your background?
A: Well, I was born in Pittsburgh and I was stationed there for just about the first three years of my life and then the family and I settled in Columbus shortly after that. Originally, my mother and father met in Chicago, so a large portion of my family was based there. This presented a second home for me since my family traveled to Chicago very frequently, having the freedom since I was home-schooled until the age of ten. Probably two to three months of the year I was in Chicago and it played a significant role in my development so I consider the Windy City as another location that I grew up in.
Now, I’m just an active local in Columbus trying to find myself. I’m located in Downtown and attempting a study within the art field but education, for me, is still a beautiful, undecided wisdom that I’m still trying to decipher. I commute every single day by bike to class, work and everything in between. As for now, I’m currently seeking a profession in professional cycling. It’s the happiest I have ever been in my entire life.
Q: How long have you been cycling?
A: Once the training wheels came off, the cranks never stopped spinning. I can’t estimate a specific age or duration of time for when or how long I have been cycling because it was an activity that took me out of the real world and honestly made me forget everything else around me. First, from just cruising around the suburbs on my brother’s BMX, to my first mountain bike that I rode into the ground and even on to my first urban fixed gear, I have always been in the saddle, no matter what age. I have always ridden for enjoyment; to school, from school and all over the city, so formal racing has only been apart of my cycling career for about four years now. My personality isn’t competitive but my spirit is. My spirit is all about riding and riding with others so I guess they both fall into the same place.
Q: What drew you to wanting to race in the upcoming Red Hook Crit?
A: What really drove me to have the desire to race in the Red Hook Crit was how different, aggressive and incredibly intimidating it was from a typical criterium. For those who don’t know what a criterium is, it’s a closed course on public roads, involving multiple laps that all fit between a 45-60 minute timed race. Each lap is just under a mile and it’s a very fast paced race that entails a close proximity between each of the riders, thus making it notorious for being one of the more dangerous forms of road cycling. Originally, criteriums were raced on geared road bikes but what makes the Red Hook Criterium stand out from the rest is that it is all only raced on track bikes. Track bikes are designed for an indoor track (or formally known as a velodrome), a form of cycling that requires a single fixed ratio that does not allow coasting or brakes to allow a safer approach on a closed course to reduce the opportunity for collision since each and every rider is racing so close to each other. So you have one gear, no brakes and no coasting. You have to continuously pedal because the fixed cog on the rear wheel allows the crank set to never stop moving.
With having my favorite genre of cycling, the criterium, and now placing my favorite form of bicycle, the track bike, within it, it appeared ridiculous and I suddenly became all for it. The Red Hook Criterium holds a strong heritage but it remains unique. Famously known for it’s skill-demanding hairpin (180 degrees) turn and its rapidly evolving competition and even the sheer thought of doing it all on a brakeless track bike intimidated me and I liked that. I like a challenge and I like to be presented the opportunity to accomplish it. That’s exactly what the Red Hook proposes to do with allowing any skill set to enter the race. From bicycle messengers from all over the world, semi-professional track athletes and on to just avid cyclists in all corners, anyone can take a shot at trying to murder themselves on a brakeless, single speed machine. That’s what interested me about the Red Hook Crit.
Q: How important is this race on a national and global scale?
A: With the RHC’s birth in Brooklyn, the importance of the race grew vast on a national scale. First, attracting the young messengers, amateur track athletes and even a few professional roadies. Then, the RHC filled some pretty large shoes and moved the race to Milano, Italy due to it’s close association with well-known, Italian institution of Cinelli Bicycles. This rapid growth spurt made the Crit a globally-known race and with that, the competition became more and more difficult. If you win, you’re not placed on a pro-level team automatically or receive a great deal of attention from the pro-level riders but for street cred, overall ability and potential as a young rider, you are placed on a podium that many try to knock you off of. The entire fixed/track bike scene knows of you and they train for this race to beat you (if you win). Usually, the top 10-15 cyclists that are winning Red Hook each and every year, are the ones winning the other fixed/track bike races all over the world. It’s a tight niche on winning because of this but also an opportunity that seems within reach if you train 25-30 hours a week.
The race continues to grow and the Red Hook Criterium is holding a four series race for this 2013 year that will determine a Red Hook Champion overall. With the end of the month being held in Red Hook Brooklyn, to the Red Hook Navy Yard in June, on to Barcelona in August and finishing in Milano in early October, cyclists will gain points along the way depending on placement and the RHC World Champion will be named. It never seems to stop expanding and I don’t think it will ever stop.
Q: So what does your regular weekly training schedule look like?
A: My regular weekly training is about 22-28 hours a week. That doesn’t include commuting because training is training and commuting is transportation. It all depends on how heavy my school/work load is each day. I try to get in at least 3 hours every day and a max of 4 hours.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday I’m in the weight room at 7 a.m. for just over an hour. Starting with hypertrophy (mass/strength) lifting on Monday, to muscular endurance lifting on Wednesday and finishing with super sets of 30-50 reps on Friday. After class, I’m on the trainer or rollers for 2-3 hours total, focusing on interval sprints three days a week and long distance endurance rides three days a week. Sundays are always my days off so I can get my legs up because rest is the most important part. It’s a lifestyle I have been following for quite some time but now just times three.
Q: Have you had to modify your diet or make other lifestyle changes while going through training?
A: Yes! Throughout my entire life, my diet has been pretty substantial but there are a few tweaks that I had to make in order to place myself in race-ready performance. First, was to increase the animal protein amount. Next, cut out bread about 80%. Then, when it comes to vegetables, there is never too many. With Sundays being my day off, I decide to have a dessert or two and maybe even a little bit more bread or pasta. The body needs a day off so it doesn’t feel deprived and then you end up compulsively eating.
Q: What will be you be doing in the final days leading up to the race?
A: Training, training, training! I’m trying to fit in 15 more minutes on an interval, 50 more pounds on a leg press, and 20% more effort on a full out sprint. Every small amount adds up and that’s what I am focusing on. I feel strong to where I believe I can perform in this race on a mental and physical scale. For the months that I have put into my training on my sprint strength and my endurance, I am focusing on my technique on the bike and how long I can withstand anything before I want to fall off the bike. It’s all about giving 150% but in the end maintaining a mentality that has positive and competitive aspects.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
A: Even though it’s going to be me on that course, me within that race, I couldn’t of done it without the tremendous spirit and support that I have around me. An extensive thanks to local bike shop Paradise Garage for letting my use their facility for training, a sincere thanks to all my pals on my team of Jeni’s Ice Cream; Team Awesome, a huge shout out to Patrick of Pedal Consumption out in Portland, Oregon for hooking me up with a bike, a close love and respect for all my beautiful family members and a personal thank you out to all the cyclists of Columbus, an eternal energy that we can all feed off of.
More information about the Red Hook Crit can be found online at www.redhookcrit.com.
Photos by Jennifer René of Jennifer René Photography.