This year I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try some road racing and experience the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough from behind the handlebars. As a brand new racer on the road, I thought it would be best to give myself a primer with the OKC Pro/AM the weekend before, just to see what it was all about. With a weekend of experience behind me, I drove out to Tulsa on Friday, June 6 and watched some of the races and picked up my packet to get ready for the next two days of racing.
I was up early Saturday, and lined up for the cat V 35+ race at the Brady District. The weather was perfect, low to mid-70s with sunny skies. There were between 40-50 racers lined up, and I did not really know what to expect.
With the start of the race, we were off quickly — and within just a few laps, the group really split up. About 20 minutes into the race the front group that I was a part of was down to 15-20 riders. There was constant back and forth, but no real surges — just a fast, steady pace. As we neared the end of the race, the bells started ringing indicating there was one lap remaining. The pace escalated quickly.
I found myself near the back of the pack, and I just rode on looking for where I could make a move. While I waited, everyone kept on going, and I finished 14th in a big group sprint. I was happy and frustrated all at the same time. Looking back on it, I don’t know what I could have done differently to have a different result.
Day two was a much different scene. The course included Cry Baby Hill, and the weather was less than cooperative. It was raining, and pouring at times. Due to the conditions, the number of racers was significantly smaller, with closer to 30 guys lining up. The race started with a neutral lap to allow everyone to assess the road conditions, and we were off at the start of lap two. The pace was completely different than the previous day, due to the course and conditions.
Cry Baby Hill split the group quickly, and the wet descent on Houston Avenue tested everyone’s nerve and bike handling. The cat 5 35+ men started at 8:35 am, so I expected the hill to be absent of fans. For the most part this was true, but a few party goers were already out cheering and passing out jello shots.
As the lap counter was posted with 4 to go, the guys up front seemed to pick up the pace, and the race really thinned out. With one lap to go, I was near the front in second or third place, and I decided that I didn’t want to wait and see what the race would bring. I took off and made a small gap before the final climb on cry baby hill, only to be caught and passed by two guys on the way up. I was able to pass one of the guys on the final climb, but the rider in front was too strong. I descended the wet and slippery Houston Avenue one last time and ended up 2nd.
It was a great experience, and Tulsa Tough is a top notch event. The organization, fans, and support are second to none. I will definitely give it a shot again next year. I see why so many people come back year after year.
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