Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tulsa Tough

I've been coming to Tulsa Tough every year since 2006. Back then, it was a bit smaller and less teams showed up but over the last years this event has grown to a 3-day NRC criterium series with guys + girls coming from the East and West Coast to get a slice of the $100,000 prize money spread over 3 days and all categories from Cat 5 to P/1. Chris Z of New Medio, the City of Tulsa, and the entire cycling community really built themselves an awesome race weekend there in the middle of boring Oklahoma...well, Tulsa ain't boring that's for sure!

We had a good team lined up and hoped for some sprint finishes with our very own Josh Carter on hand. That was the plan and well, sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail. Friday's crit was more "nail-like". The Blue Dome night crit was fast and furious but everything stayed at bay for the most part, we followed moves and I went for a "Fireworks prime" ;-) At the end of the night, though Josh lost the wheel in front of him and with 90guys trying to be up there and chopping corners etc. we didn't come out with much.

Sportswriter and photographer Lyne Lamoureux of Podium Insight took some pretty cool shots that night:

Saturday's Crit at Brady Village looked to be yet another field sprint since former Mercy teammate and super-sprinter Huffy wanted to keep adding points to his Overall lead and we also hoped to have Josh there at the end. Besides, the course is fast and even though there's a small hill on the backside (in front of the SOUNDPONY) not much separation is usually made. The legs felt good again and I remember winning the Gambler's prime last year just before the lead-out trains almost rolled over me...This time around, though it was time to go to work and help setup Josh again. A dangerous move of 10 or 12 rolled off with 30minutes to go and we only had 2 guys in there. We stuck with the plan and Carlos, Heath and I brought it back and the rest of the guys took care of the rest to keep Josh up there until the end. It ended a bit differently as planned out with Sully getting 7th and Huff winning - again! We were close, but not there. One day to go, though.

Sunday's Riverview Criterium is the most exciting, craziest, criterium I'm racing each season. Athens is right next to hit, but the "Cry Baby Hill" is so unique and just therefore TulsaTough deserves its spot on the NRC calendar! The 1K course is more like a circuit, with a short + punchy hill, some rollers, a downhill and 500m flat along the Arkansas River. Every year I did this race the winner almost always rode in the front, made the breaks, and sometimes even lapped the field. No different today. There was not much hiding you can do on that course. I found myself off the front a bit too early after I took the first KOM on top of the hill so I backed off again and tried to save the legs for the rest. Guys would go off and come back and 30min it was time to go again as a group of 6 or 7 rolled off the front. Jelly Belly was happy to control the field and wait until the end and just watched guys who could threaten Huff's lead. Good for us. I was in good company with Tilford, Bergman, Schmalz, Haga and a couple of other guys. It didn't go far, though and we re-shuffled again. Finally, Brian Jensen made another move and me and Bergman joined and the three of us just rolled for the next 30minutes until 5 or so to go. If you have three guys racing on the front and being committed to stay away on a course like that it's hard for anyone to just bridge up or the field coming close to us. 2 guys made it, though and one of them my Kiwi teammate Logan. Solo for 3 laps to catch us and close a 25sec lead! He gave all he had to make it a bit harder and launched an attack but Jensen was unbeatable today and rode away with 1 1/2laps to go. Bergman, the other guy who bridged up and I were left just ahead of the charging field with 1/2 lap to go. I was behind Bergman coming out of the last corner but the other guy was right on my wheel and I had nothing left for the sprint for the last podium spot. Frustrating for sure, since it was so close and having ridden in the front most of the day. But still, it was a nice end to an exciting weekend and we definitely had the hammer in our jerseys today!

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