Having missed the race last year due to injury, I was pretty pumped to be heading to Tulsa with my Primal/MapMyRide teammates! I had heard the stories from previous years, but none of them do it justice. It’s one of those races you just HAVE to experience for yourself to get the full picture. So if you haven’t ever been there…and you’ve only seen the pictures of Cry Baby Hill, add this one to your cycling bucket list!
The community of Tulsa opened their hearts, homes and WALLETS for 3 days of crit racing with some fast, technical, and challenging courses. The race organizers put on a spectacular show. It was amazing how many people volunteered their time to put on these races. What a great town!
Our host housing was all within a mile of each other, most of us took over an entire neighborhood. We were able to ride to/from our host houses to all the races. The convenience factor didn’t go unnoticed!
Now let’s talk about the CASH!! Every race had crowd primes for the women ONLY …doesn’t get much better than that! The crowds were encouraged to donate money, in any amount, to the primes. Heck, you could even donate online at the Tulsa Tough website in advance or for people not even at the races. Oh and the crowd responded… each crowd prime was well over $1,000. In fact, one local bike racer gave $1,000 himself for Cry Baby Hill. Talk about generous!
Saturday and Sunday mornings were a time to give back and get involved with the community. Each team had to participate in the GranFondo rides. Sunday morning was my day. Jackie, Susannah and I got up at the crack of dawn to meet and greet the riders. Team presentations and air time with Dave Towle started at 7am SHARP, with roll out at 7:30!
Cry Baby Hill – 4 corner, technical course with the kicker – Cry Baby Hill and screaming downhill into a sharp right turn. Our goal: Position Jackie in a break or a sprint finish. The hottest day, a balmy 95+! We soaked our jerseys and stuffed our sports bras with nylons filled with ice cubes. You laugh but it works! Now you have a use for all your old knee highs J Really pre-mature in lining up for the race, as the Tulsa Townie ride was still rolling in, Liza and I took a lap of course to avoid the log jam. Having never seen the calamity and chaos known as Cry Baby Hill, I was awe struck when I turned the corner to crest the climb. I was greeted by a mob of beer drinking, costume wearing, hose squirting, and loud cheers. The people were at least 3 deep lining the chalk filled street. Words and pictures only merely scratch the surface. Part of me wished I had waited until the race started. Almost felt like a kid spoiling the surprise on Christmas morning. This is a race of attrition, only the tough will survive. Lap after lap Cry Baby Hill took a toll on the field. There were a handful of crashes descending into the crazy steep corner too. Liza took a tumble but dusted herself off and got back in the race. Phew! Alison Powers attacked solo and got away. Not long after Olivia, caught us off guard and broke free. We missed THE move and were caught chasing, the chase was unorganized and there was too much time. Just wasn’t going to happen. With 2 riders up the road, we were sprinting for 3rd. More than ½ the field was gone there were about 25 riders left on course. The speed was high coming into the final turn, so high in fact; Christina Gokey-Smith hopped the curb and crashed into a spectator! Avoiding the mess, Liza and Jackie both scored top 10 finishes.
Blue Dome District – 8 corner downtown crit. Our goals: Cover the moves, go for the $$, if it comes down to a sprint finish deliver Nicky to the line. It was a battle from the start. Each of us taking turns at the front, burning matches and hoping for a break but nothing was going to stick. There were too many individual riders or teams working for their sprinters so in the final laps we tried to get organized. Tried – being the key word. The pace was high and we were competing against some very skilled, practiced riders and teams. It was our first time attempting a lead out train. We were successful in finding each other, but it was mid pack instead of at the front!! Nicky was on her own, she surfed wheel s for 7th place. Reading through the results, it wouldn’t look like we accomplished much…but racing together as a team for the first time, there were a lot of positives!
Brady Village – L-shaped, with 2 small bumps. Our goal: Be at the front, counter NOW’s attacks – don’t chase them down – tire out the field, launch Emily in a break. BANG! 20 or so minutes into the race and Robin Farina slides in behind and Emily and says GO! Emily initiates and Robin follows. They are joined by Kristen LaSasso and a Kenda rider, who only lasted a few laps. NOW and Primal get to the front and control the field. Covering and watching, it was pretty text book. Success! The break survives and Emily sprints for a photo finish, less than ½ a wheel. Damn good team effort for 2nd place.
Sunday night all the pro women celebrated with a fabulous dinner sponsored by Saris at the home of the former Mayor. Classy way to wrap up our stay in Tulsa! Unbelievable estate, delicious cuisine, open bar, and a glimpse into high society and southern hospitality. Had a great time visiting with the Vanderkitten’s and being social without a chamois!
I’m already excited for next year’s Tulsa Tough…the question is are you Tough enough?! Hope to see you there!