My name is Kayle LeoGrande, I’m a bike racer, father of five, and professional tattoo artist. I am a member of the Monster Media MRI cycling team here in Southern California. Last weekend we had a six man squad that traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma to compete in a three-day race, Tulsa Tough, in the 1-2 category. For those of you that are unaware of the race, let me assure you it is one of the most exciting and challenging weekends of racing all year.
Our goal was to win, and with the experience and talent Monster Media MRI possesses, the odds were in our favor over the 125-man field. The first night was an hour long criterium in the Blue Dome District of Tulsa. We had a few ideas of how we wanted to win the race. Any six of us on the team can and will ride in the break, so that was, and always is a goal in our pre-race meetings. Plan B was to set Randall Coxworth, Phil Tintsman, or myself up to execute a winning sprint. However, that’s easier said than done.
The race started off fast, and it was obvious it was going to be difficult for a break to stick with the weather being humid, and the speed of the field being so high. I was a bit surprised by how steady the pace was compared to the Pro race I was in last year on the same course. We always had two members of our team in any move that happened, but with many fresh legs on day one nothing was getting away.
With six laps to go we could see it was going to be a field sprint, and I begin mapping out where I wanted to start my sprint for the win if I found myself in a position to do so. We controlled the front, keeping the pace high, but with two to go, we began to get swarmed a bit, and only had Jaime Paolinetti and Chris DeMarchi to lead me out for the sprint. A rider from Elbowz Racing jumped with one to go and right then DeMarchi reacted, shouting for me to get on and hold on. He wasn’t joking. When he jumped, it was text book, taking me through the last turn with way more than enough speed for me to sprint to victory. It was an excellent job by the team, and the result put a smile on all of our faces for the rest of the night.
Night two of the weekend was in the Brady District of Tulsa and was just as challenging as the first night, if not harder with, a little hill and wide downhill leading into the start-finish area. Last year I finished eighth, I believe, in a sprint finish that was well over 40 mph. The race started just as fast, if not faster, as the night before, and the humidity made it difficult to breathe and relax. It felt a lot like a National Championship race with attacks constantly going off. It was an aggressive race.
With 10 laps to go, a move of three guys was 25 seconds up the road, and sure enough, one of them crashed. So with five laps to go we tried gathering ourselves to see if we could bring the two riders back so I could once again try for the win. With no help from any of the other teams we did our best, but we were unable to reduce the gap. At that point, Jaime, Chris, and Phil did their best to set me up for the field sprint and third on the night. With one lap to go John Abate set a fast pace that had Jaime shouting. I had enough foresight to tell Chris to punch it, as I sensed the field beginning to swarm us. Once again, Chris brought to the last turn where I jumped off an SC/Velo rider’s wheel to get third on the night. We were a bit disappointed to not have gotten the win, but to be on the podium after a hard race in super humid conditions like that was still somewhat acceptable.
The third day was going to be the most difficult, as once again, it was humid, and there was nowhere to hide on a course that challenged every racer mentally and physically. I was in the overall lead in the omnium points race by 7 points over the second place rider. My teammate Chris was in third. At this race last year, I finished 25th after avoiding a downhill disaster with one lap to go. This year had to be better, or so I thought. Our plan, as a team, was simple: Survive! Sounds simple, right? Let me assure you there was nothing simple about it. It started off fast, with Phil rolling off with another rider only to be brought back soon. I was feeling okay, but could sense I wasn’t on a good day as my lower left back was cramping on me. There was nowhere to catch my breath and stretch, so I found myself struggling to keep pace with guys I would normally ride away from. I thought,”What’s wrong? Why am I feeling so bad? Get it together,” but it wouldn’t work in my favor on this day. As I struggled to simply push my big ring, I knew that simply finishing the race would be a tall task. So it was, as I watched 20, then 30 riders of what was left in the race simply ride by as all my body wanted to do was rest. An odd feeling, as I cannot remember the last time I didn’t finish a race. With the worst case scenario happening for myself, I had to hope Chris would hang tough and get the win.
Watching the race I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in myself, but it passed, as no good would come from dwelling on it. Chris finished sixth on the night, a respectable result considering how incredibly hard the race was. The guy is one tough mother, and a great athlete. Don’t underestimate his ability to go uphill. And if you want to trade pulls with him in a break, well good luck. All in all, I am very happy with our team’s results and my own personal results as well.
Chris finished fourth overall, and I finished fifth in the omnium. Yeah I didn’t get the overall omnium win, but I can hold my head up high knowing I did my absolute best and so did my teammates. We had a great time in Tulsa, and can build off our success to make ourselves even better for the future. Thank you for everyone who cheered for us, and had great things to say about our racing. Thank you to Hugh and Jen, the owners of our host house, for letting us stay in their home, and watch lady’s golf on the TV. And thank you for taking the time to read this race report. I hope it gave you a little insight on how I saw things at Tulsa Tough and how much my teammates and I love racing and trying to win. Eat fresh!