I'm gonna keep this short and direct and with little drama...
2015 was intended to be a turnaround year as a CAT 4 after a very difficult 2014 as a CAT 5. I think I broke the team record for "leaving my bike involuntarily" during a race or training ride.
I decided I was going to do TulsaTough for two reasons.
#1) I was determined to make this a comeback year by doing some races I have yet to do including Snake Alley
#2) I have two sisters that live in Tulsa and it was the 3rd birthday weekend of my amazing little twin nephew and niece.
Tulsa Tough is said to be one of the best races in the country for Pros and Amateurs. Its on the NCC calendar and the prize money is over $100,000
The weekend started with 3 CRITS Friday late Friday afternoon with the CAT3, CAT 1,2, and PROs which were in an artsy neighborhood downtown Tulsa. I had to pickup my race #, which was down at the race. When I arrived at the race around 7PM the CAT 3's were in the heat of it. There were literally thousands of spectators cheering for them as they pounded their way through the city. It was F'ing awesome to see this!!!! I looked up and there was a jumbotron showing a live video feed of the action, and speakers all throughout the course broadcasting the professional announcer. I truly felt at that point that I didn't deserve to be a part of something that had such an phenomenal presence. The production value to put this race on is second to none. Nothing I've seen in Chicago compares. Unfortunately...
My first race was Saturday in another artsy neighborhood of Tulsa. Seriously, who would have thought that Tulsa was kinda cool? The quality of the race I saw Friday night was now my race. It was beautiful. There's the jumbotron, the professional announcer, the cameras all over the course for streaming live coverage. Holy hell, what did I get myself into? There were 103 riders all from the Southwest, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and one from Colorado, one from California, and the sucker from Chicago! Ha! This was beyond the largest group that I have raced. This was a mildly technical course with a bit of a hill on the backside which tended to separate the field on each lap. My typical strategy with a crit is to sit near the back for the first few laps then start to make my way upstream. This strategy worked like a charm. There were a few crashes as I expected with a field this size and our experience. I did my thing and slowly moved my way through the pack to end up third wheel with 3 laps to go. The heat turned up on lap two and I did my best to hold a wheel in the front of the group which I did but letting a few riders slip by. The last lap was mentally brutal, but I held on and at this point I wanted a top 10. I looked around and put my head down and just mashed. The sprint finish wasn't as violent as I expected, and I regret not trying harder. I put in a strong effort and finished 9th place out of 103 who started. Paid out to 15 spots, yeah!
Day 2 was the famous CryBabyHill which is in a residential neighborhood just a few blocks outside of downtown. My race wasn't until 11am so I spent the morning watching the races live to get an idea of what to expect. The rain held off, but was another 90 degree + humidity day. The race before mine there was a rider who went down who's heart stopped and was resuscitated by a Tulsa policeman. This cop is currently a Tulsa hero. Once again the course setup production was unbelievable. This race is the THE race of the weekend. It brings the most riders, sponsors, spectators, and just craziness! Its a 3/4 mile course that has a hill (CBH) that is about 10% grade on average. It starts out with a short steep climb for 50meters, and then a hard right turn onto CBH to continue the climb for another 100meters. CBH is where things get weird. Just go to YouTube and search CryBabyHill and you will see what I'm talking about. Its a party and a bike race breaks out. Grown men wearing diapers, women wearing next to nothing, live DJ, beer handouts, every one of them screaming for your success to get over the hill. Its fucking awesome!!!!!!!! total debauchery. My field was 106 riders today, and it was the hardest crit I've even been in. Quickly the field was shredded and my strategy to stay toward the back was not ideal. I could never catch up. I ended up in a group a 3 off the main pack. We were all hurting. I didn't realize but they started pulling riders halfway through the race. I ended up on my own off the back of the main group for 2 laps and I saw the pace car in my rear. Dammit. I made it to the top of CBH with 5 laps to go and I got pulled. Ended up 46th place out of 106. Over 70 riders were pulled. I felt better when I saw every race riders were pulled. The CAT 1/2 over 50 riders were pulled.
What I learned:
1) This is by far without a doubt the more professional race I've been a part of.
2) My sisters, bro-in-law, nephews and nieces and Mom got to watch me race and they absolutely loved it
3) This race brings in ridiculous talent, there was $2500 prime for a single lap for the ladies P12 on Sunday. WOW!!!!!!!
4) Don't start in the back of the group on CBH
5) I will definitely do this race again next year
6) I WANT YOU!!! to join me next year at this awesome event! I'm pretty sure my sisters will have room :)