Saturday, June 7, 2008

When the Going Gets Tough

And Then…… Tulsa Tough. This race started 3 years ago as a brain child of some very creative guys with a passion for racing. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite races. I would say, at this point it has surpassed the Quad Cities Races in about every facet of the races. Better riders, bigger atmosphere, harder courses, faster races and bigger and better venues. Again, that’s overall. I’m going to hedge my bet though and say Snake Alley is one of the top 5 races in the country. I can do that, because this is my blog and I get to say whatever I want.

Day 1: Blue Dome District.

I’m not really sure why I chose to do the Men 1,2 race vs. the P,1 race. It was an amalgom of reasons really. I wanted help the younger/ newer guys on the team. We’ve got some good kids on the team that are on the cusp of becoming some tough as nails riders. Reality. With Toyota United bringing 9 guys, is it really realistic that I could walk away with any prize $$$$$? Maybe, but maybe not. BUT there is $75,000 up for grabs and it’s not mathematically possible for Toyota to take it all. But I digress….

50 minutes, 90 riders, good $, 830pm start, fast course. We had a team meeting with myself, Joe, Nick, and Chris before the race and discussed some strategy. We all had radios so we should use them. And I tried to stress the importance of getting in moves as they form, vs. bridging to them. I started in the back, again. I really am starting to like the moving up process. We missed some moves, made some moves. I bridged to a move that I thought was good. I thought that was it and we were going to ride to the line. But again, it was not to be. We were caught and I allowed myself to shuffle back too far. In the end I was so pathetically out of position that I finished well out of the money. Chris scored a 16th though, sneaking into the paying places.

I think our biggest deficit this evening was our inability to hook up early on prime laps. But this is a relatively inexperienced squad so that comes with the process. But the horsepower is there to do some good things.

Day 2: Brady District.

As we’re sitting at the Blue Moon Bakery eating breakfast with the Mercy Men, we look up and notice that the sky is pitch black, which is bad because it’s 1030am. Apparently there was a rather substantial MONSOON heading our way. We scarfed our breakfast, jumped on our bikes and high tailed it back to the host house. Well, at least we high tailed it as much as you can with a belly full of coffee and breakfast. Some pictures:

Again I raced the Men 1,2 race. This time we did a much better job of riding into breaks and maintaining position. I think it’s better for the young guys when the two rock solid vets, Bill Stolte and Steve Tilford aren’t around to rely on. It makes myself and the other guys do it themselves. My belief is that if they can do it without Steve and Bill, then when those two are there, everyone is much more effective.

Everyone did a good job of covering moves and staying in position. I made a true tough man move on a $100 prime lap and rode across to a break away, then through the break to win the $100. However, the officials wrote the incorrect number and thus I was not the recipient of my $100. Depressing. Then later three guys roll off the front and we’re racing for 4th. I placed between 20-25th after practicing up on my “crash avoidance” skills. Not bad, but definitely not good. Joe placed 20th, which was the best place on the team.

Men P, 1. Some comments….

It’s no doubt that Toyota United is the best team in the country and it’s no surprise that they should and could win every race. But there's good winners, and a-hole winners. First, this was the only pro team in the race. And by team, I mean a full 9 Man squad. Second, their sponsor quit on them, meaning they no longer have an obligation to Toyota to race the big races. But it also means that they're all jobless as of Jan 1, 2009 and may be collecting unemployment checks. This means that they're all ready to go race for the $$. And race for $$ they did. I'm guessing they took home ~$57000 of the $75000 prize purse. Wow. Now, none of this is so much a problem until.....

Early in the Brady District Crit, Toyota had the horsepower in a break with 4 guys. Then along comes Cole House who makes a ridiculous move to bridge across to the break. Normally, the 4 will let the 1 stay there as a gesture of good will. But not today. Cole was told to leave the break and return to the field. When he declined the invitation, Toyota made it happen.

Next, the Mercy Cycling Team did the same move in a brilliant move that saw the entire team drill it on the front so that Chad Cagle could bridge across. Once he got there, it was the same thing. These guys wouldn't let Chad ride! Not only is the Mercy team the local Heros, BUT (I'm going to use big font now) Chad picked the Toyota guys up at the airport!!!!!!! How's that for a "Thank You?!!" I guess favors are only returned to other "Pro" riders.... You know, there comes a time when that sort of thing comes back to you. For some, it'll be Jan 1. For others... who knows. On a "karma" note, the crowd did pick up on the whole thing and actually started boo-ing the Toyota guys! Awesome.

So why did they do those un-cool maneuvers? Because, Toyota wanted 1-4 (break away) and they wanted as many money spots from the field sprint as they could get. Remember, they're on a Mission for Money.

Day 3.
I decided to "man up" as Matt Ankney puts it, and race the P,1 race. This race is basically, okay it's really hard. Big uphill downhill, uphill, turn, downhill hairpin corner finish line, then back to the big uphill. Oh, and it's hot. But that's good for me. Right?

80 minutes. Okay, here we go! Just as I suspected. It was hard. But I managed to make the "winning move" with 3 Toyota riders, Adam Bergman, and a couple others. I thought to myself, surely they'll let me stay on today after getting all that grief yesterday. Nope, i got taken off the back on the hill and dropped after about two laps. Then I coasted for nearly a whole lap before I saw the field behind me.

You know the worse part of being dropped from The Move isn't the getting dropped and being demoralized as an individual. The worse part was facing my team mates and having to acknowledge to them that, "yup, I sucked and couldn't hack it." It's humbling to get dropped, but I was down right ashamed to go back and see the team. I actually thought about quitting before the field caught me.

But I didn't. And I ended up in another move that didn't work out. then I was ruined and decided I was just going to finish. In the end I was so tired, I couldn't move up or really dream of trying to sprint.

The best part of the race, and the weekend was the party on the hill! You turn the corner and you're in a tunnel of noise and a maze or water guns! These guys had a sound system going, and the smell of beer was exactly what a tired bike racer needed to prompt a DNF! Afterwards I talked a couple of guys who said they were going to put a line on the road and have "Hill Primes" next year. Totally un-related to the race down below. Just their own thing. I can't wait!

So that's the year of Tulsa Tough. My only sticking point is that the race either needs to have multiple Pro teams so that the sour feelings of Toyota don't recur. Or they need to make it a UCI amateur race. I vote the latter. But that's just me.