tulsa knows how to make a lady feel special

It’s been five days since I got back from the Tulsa Tough, and I’m still on cloud 9.

Tulsa was one of the most amazing and fun experiences I’ve ever had in my bike racing career.  It was three days of fast technical crits and by the third and most technical day, I was really starting to feel comfortable and happy to be racing a crit.

Don’t get me wrong, as a racer, I still have a long way to go in my crit racing.  I still struggle with staying in the front of a race and with getting onto a leadout train but I know that those skills will come with time.

The first day of Tulsa was the Blue Dome District Criterium.  It’s a wide eight corner crit with mostly left turns (awesome! I love turning left!).  It’s a lot like the Enumclaw crit which I’ve been terrible at for years so I figured this was a great race for me!

I started in the front and somehow used my super crit racing skills to immediately and magically end up in the back.  cool.

About 15 minutes in after finally figuring out getting back to the front a dinky $50 prime was called.  A NOW rider was off the front and so I decided to go for it and bridge up to her.  I caught her just before the line and came through to take the prime.  We stayed off the front for another lap and a half before we were swallowed up and I used my skills to immediately find my way to the back again.  cool.

At the end of the day, the team rode together, took some primes, and were aggressive.  We really only missed one goal which was to be there for the leadout.  whoops.

Day two was the Brady Village Crit.  This one was L-shaped, a little narrower in some spots, had a small hill, and was still mostly left turns (score!).

Emily was kind enough to initiate a break 20 minutes in so for the majority of the race the rest of us were able to just move to the front and try to shut down any chases or dangerous moves.  There were some crashes but they were all behind me for the most part.  During the race it really felt like I was racing as part of a team and we were able to cover every single move that tried to chase down or bridge to the break.

At the end of the day Emily got 2nd but most of the rest of us still weren’t there for Nicky at the finish so we weren’t able to take the field sprint.

The final day was the Riverview Criterium, home of the infamous “Crybaby Hill.” Riverview is all right turns (lame!) with a steep kicker (Crybaby) that is filled with approximately a million drunk people.   The turn back onto riverside drive is straight downhill (my guess would be an 89% grade) into an off camber 110 degree turn.  Memories of taking myself out in a similar corner at Hood last year kept me real tentative through the corner for the first several laps.

This was our only afternoon race and it was so hot that I filled my pockets with ice and put a nylon full of ice down the back of my jersey before the start.  I was terrified of this race but after the first time up Crybaby I knew I was in love.  Words cannot properly describe what it’s like to ride up Crybaby so I’ll let this video do the talking.

Tulsa Tough: Cry Baby Hill (2012) from Keith Walberg on Vimeo.

At the end of the day, even though it was a blast and I avoided several crashes (they all happened behind me because guess who is learning how to ride in the front of the g-d crit?!) we kind of didn’t pull it together as a team as NOW sent two solo riders clear and took the top two steps of the podium and we were only able to pull off ninth.

After the race the former mayor of Tulsa along with Saris threw a party at her house mansion castle for all of the professional women.  Everyone ate and drank and was social while Niels and I played their sweet star wars pinball machine along with some 10 year olds who thought we were real cool.

I honestly got a little weepy thinking about how cool it is that there are people and companies and promoters who genuinely care about getting more recognition, media, and money behind women’s professional cycling.  Shawn Brett, the director of media for Tulsa Tough genuinely cares about moving towards parity for the women’s peloton and as a result I will always support his race.

About Jess Cutler

35 year old pro road and cyclocross racer. National Champion. Generally nice person.
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