With May in the rearview mirror, I started making my way back home to Texas, with a weekend-long interlude at the best bike racing party in the country – Tulsa Tough and its famous “Cry Baby Hill.”
Between New Jersey and Tulsa, Sara Yancovitz and I spent two nights in North Lima, Ohio at the childhood home of my teammate David Wenger, where we rode beautiful country roads. We made our way to St. Louis, and spent a night with cycling friends from Lindenwood University. And then we finally ended up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we were hosted by Alex Battles-Wood, a former teammate of mine from the Tour L’Abitibi and a legendary junior racer in the Texas scene.
Tulsa was the first set of races with teammates since the Houston Grand Criterium, and it was great to see familiar faces as I toe’d the start line on Friday night. Four guys would be flying the Super Squadra colors at this NCC event: myself, Phil Wikoff, Devin Carroll, and (our unofficial Paul Mitchell Conditioner spokesperson) Grant Koontz.
Friday is always the craziest day of racing in terms of nervous energy, and this year was no exception. I was tangled in an early crash just four laps in. I rolled to the pit with a tear in my skinsuit and hopped back in the pack the next lap around. As the laps ticked down, I found my groove again and sat comfortably in the middle of the field, patiently waiting before I tried to launch any efforts.
A large crash with about 13 laps to go took out half of the field, and forced me up onto the sidewalk. I rolled to the pit for a second time, and when I was pushed in the I was able to get near the front of the pack just as gaps were opening. I saw a group of about 10 riders start to roll up the road and made a move to get across. As I made the junction to the lead group, the announcer rang a bell for a hefty prime. I decided that with the craziness of the race and a good position, I would go for it! In a long sprint that started half a lap out, I outsprinted fellow Texan Stefan Rothe (Elbowz) and Joseph Schmalz (Hincapie), winning the $500 cash prime.
With cash in my pocket, I kept things going to see if my small group would survive to the end, but the whole race came together with eight laps to go and I faded back just a little bit too much to contest the finish.
Saturday’s race was delayed half an hour as a massive rainstorm rolled through. Luckily, the delay was just enough to keep things safe and the course dried quickly. Many racers used the early wet roads and chaos to get a move up the road, as many were hungry for a result. Teams worked together to reel breaks back in, and at one point Grant, Devin, and I did just that. I could not be more proud to see my team working amongst many of the pros to bring back the move. But as the laps ticked down, I could feel the early efforts to bring back the break and faded back, fearing another crash, and hoping I’d have fresh legs for Sunday, on the notorious Cry Baby Hill.
I was eager to flex the morning of Cry Baby Hill (decidedly, not a “no flex zone”). The soreness from my Friday crash on Friday was subsiding and the course suits my style. On the 4th lap of the race, I had a small crash but was able to jump back in the pack using a free lap. My pride was more bruised then my actually body. As I got back into the rhythm of racing, I found my sweet spot in the pack and waited for the hill to wear down on the competition. Unfortunately, a spectator caused a massive pile up at the top of Cry Baby hill, sending 85 riders to the pit, and ending my day. My knee took the brunt of the crash, started to swell, and kept me from pedaling.
Even though I crashed more then any year previous at Tulsa Tough, I had a ton of fun on and off the bike. It’s a special event, with huge crowds and high quality courses. Undeterred by the falls, I am already looking forward to the next race on my calendar, the Under-23 nationals in Lake Tahoe!