|WAIT, This is in Tulsa OK??|
I cannot think of another criterium in the country as iconic as day three of Tulsa tough. Also known as Cry Baby Hill. Although the course is not too technical, it does offer its own unique characteristics to challenge the riders. Every lap involves sprinting up a short but steep hill (CBH) into a mosh pit of spectators, and then immediately come down through the start finish. Rinse and repeat.
What makes the race so unique is the party at the top of the hill. The whole city comes out every year to drink, dance, and party, all while a peloton of riders races through the middle of the group. The party on the hill starts early in the morning as the races begin. As the beer, liquor, and dehydration start to set in throughout the day, the party reaches maximum intensity by the time to pro men and pro women go off to end the weekend of races.
At the start of the race, I felt quite relaxed. I did not feel like standing in staging 20 mins before the start of the race, in the sun and in the heat, as it was only going to do more harm than good. I opted to stand in the shade outside of staging, waiting for the final countdown before lining up to the race.
The race started off fast as it should as many racers were eager to get their first chance up CBH. I slow rolled up the hill the first time, taking my time on the outside line. I know the key to CBH is all about momentum. I’ve gone up this hill over a hundred times in my career and I knew the outside line was hot. Taking things on the inside usually meant that you might get pinched and have to jump hard again to match the groups acceleration.
The plan of the race was to help Tristan get a result and extend his lead in the overall. I found my groove early on in the race and started to move up towards the front of the group to help Tristan (because of his top 10 yesterday, Tristan got a call-up and started at the front of the bike race).
As the laps started to tick down, I unfortunately saw Tristan slide out in the final turn. I rode by and noticed that he was not hurt. I immediately got in position towards the outside of the group. I knew the next lap he would be jumping in with his free lap, and I was going to need to guide him back to the front of the group.
As we came back around I was happy to see that the officials threw Tristan in back in the front half of the group and I did not have to guide him into position myself. I calmly continued my journey towards the front end of CBH.
I got my first time in the wind for the weekend when the group slowed up over the crest of the hill. I was able to shoot out of the group in an attack. There was already a small group off the front and I was in pursuit to bring them back. My gap was short lived as riders quickly tagged onto my wheel. I kept the pressure on for the rest of the lap. GIANT missed the move and I knew that the riders who were sitting on my wheel were waiting for me to slow down so they can block for their teammates up the road. I kept the pressure on the pedals until the break was close enough to excite some more riders to try to bridge across. Luckily this is what happened and the move finally came back.
I faded back into the group for a few laps trying to catch my breath after such a hard effort. After a few laps of trying to regain myself, I saw that another move went up the road. This time all the teams were represented and I knew this could be a race winner riding away. Bret and I were able to link up towards the front of the field and he was able to dig deep for a hard lap, stringing things out and bringing the move just that little bit closer. As Bret peeled off of the front I knew I couldn’t bridge across just yet, I was in a poor position and I could feel that the group was ready to follow any move that attempted the bridge.
It was the very next lap that I felt the group was losing interest in the chase. I jumped hard on the second bump of CBH and got a gap going into the downhill. I put my head down and kept the power down. I could see the break wasn’t too organized as well as the main group not showing too much interest. After spending a solo lap bridging across to the leaders I was joined by two riders and the three of us were able to close down the gap.
Once I made it across, I did could not really tell if this was the race winning move. All the heavy hitters made it up there, but the organization wasn’t. No one wanted to ride smoothly and things were really jumpy. I kept looking over my shoulder to see where the field was, and our gap was still at a healthy margin. I did a little work at the front, mostly to keep things smooth.
|Got across and was flying the GIANT flat off the front for a few laps|
As the laps started to tick down I saw that we were in the final ten laps of the race. Riders from the break started to attack but everyone was keen on keeping each other’s cards close to their chest. Before long I saw some new faces coming across to the move, luckily one of these faces was rocking the familiar Fu Man Chu of Tristan. I stayed near the front of the pack as the break was caught. Things were single file and if there was a split I may be able to pull out one more hard effort for the team.
As things started getting confusing, including a crash on the start line I saw that Tristan seemed to be riding in good position. I started to fade through the back of the group as we were approaching the final laps. My legs were cooked from the days earlier efforts.
Unfortunately, I would go off the back with 5 laps to go. I did my work and represented the team well in the break. I would spend the last few laps getting beer hand ups and dolla dolla billz from the crowd at the top of the hill.
I would find out that a second split went up the road, and sadly the team missed the final move of the day. Tristan would still finish in the top 15, which was well enough to move him up a single spot in the overall omnium.
All in all, I think it was a successful weekend for the team. We all rode as a solid unit despite being out manned and outgunned by some of the larger teams that were present. We were then able to help Tristan get top 15 on every single day of racing including a top 10 in GC and Saturday.
My next set of races will be solo stint of crits near Milwaukee as part of the Tour of America’s Dairylands.