Tulsa, its been short but sweet. We’ve had 3 days of non stop, ‘balls out’ crit racing, definitely my style of racing! But here we are, 6 ladies and Jono crammed in the VK van on the road again, travelling to our next event, Northstar GP in Minnesota.
Tulsa Wrap up
We were spoilt rotten at Peter our Hosts house, having our own rooms and multiple bathrooms to share. Like most host families, Peter is a bike enthusiast, and has hosted professional cycling teams in the past ( just quietly, I think we’ve been his favourites). Peter owns and runs the Famous 'Brady Theatre' down town in Tulsa, a beautifully restored building that holds concerts and productions. Peter and Heather allowed us ladies to take over the house and most importantly, the run of the industrial sized kitchen. Miranda was in her Element!
We arrived a few days earlier to support some of the major sponsors for this event, one being Saint Francis Children's Hospital. The VK team made a visit to the hospital to cheer up some sick kids, ran a cycling clinic for the Tulsa Divas (a women’s cycling club), and attended pre-race media requirements. The Hospital visit was definitely my most memorable experience.
Go Hard or Go Home!
We had 3x60min criterium races over 3 days. The courses were all very different but the race intensity, atmosphere and energy were all the same. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the crowd, check out the photos below. Stage one, referred as ‘The Blue Dome’ criterium, was fast and flat, but had multiple corners that winded through the streets down town. The pro women didn’t kick off until 8:15pm so half the race was under lights! This was my first international Criterium and Tulsa certainly turned it on for us (10,000 deep crowd). The race was full throttle from the gun, and pace never really let up. No breaks stuck and it came down to the bunch kick. UHC lead out 5 laps to go, snaking all over the road like a bunch of hooligans! Background knowledge: United Health Care- pay their athletes, big budget, UCI team and one of the most dominant teams in US cycling. By bell lap, UHC had strung out the whole peloton and everyone was riding single file. I managed to chop into their train , sitting pretty at 3rd wheel, but couldn’t hold onto it for the last corner, costing me a podium. Finished 6th overall, so good result for me, but poor old Gillian our main sprinter didn’t see 1 lap to go so missed the boat…it happens people! Second day was less technical, situated just near Peter’s Theatre in more of the industrial area downtown. My roll today was to get Gillian into a good position to contest the bunch kick in the final sprint. Mid-race, a break got away (without VK represented), which had some strong riders, including Coryn Rivera from UHC (one of their top sprinters). We were forced to change our race plan, and suddenly we had the whole team on the front (bar me) to bring back the break. Everyone on our team worked their arses off and we successfully caught the break at about 6 laps to go. I on the other hand didn’t hit the wind once, Gillian and I decided during the race that I would save myself for the final sprint. Bell lap I moved up, and once again was able to push myself into 3rd wheel (surrounded by UHC). I was beginning to develop an arch nemesis, Coryn Rivera. We jostled for position and she got the elbows in and in a blink, I was pushed back to 6th wheel. In the final 500m, the rider in front of me lost contact with the top 4 (when the front group is going at full gas its almost impossible to make up ground), which ultimately cost us a spot on the podium. I finished 5th and Gillian right behind me at 6th.
The last stage of Tulsa Tough is probably the most famous, well known for the crazy crowds, wild parties and the nasty climb called 'cry baby hill'. Every lap you accented a short, steep and very narrow climb, where you almost took out intoxicated fans screaming and throwing beer all over you. It was insane, but fun! This type of course definitely suits my style of riding, power climbs, sharp corners, obstacles (crowd) and not to mention wet roads. I went into this race with confidence that I could take the win (self-beleif is crucial when competing at this level). As the rain fell during my warmup, I watched riders in the race before us dropping like flies on the final, sharp and steep right hander going into the finish. Almost every lap Someone slid out (not the best pre-race entertainment). When we hit the startling, the clouds parted and the sun appeared, a blessing from above! The roads began to dry up and I started to feel excited. Our team had a ripper of a race, we were definitely the most aggressive team out there, causing UHC to chase our riders, Korina and Gillian that made timely attacks throughout the race. I calmly sat in the top 10, spinning up crybaby hill every lap. Except when I heard the commentator yell ‘$1000’ for a sprint prem lap. I thought, 'what the hell! we need petrol money so I’m going for it!’ It was also a good practice run for the final sprint and I was able to hold off other competitors to win the cash. Coming into bell lap, I found Coryn Rivera’s wheel as I knew she was a favourite (last years winner). I knew I had to try something different and try to get the early jump on the UHC train. So thats what I did, seeing an opportunity on the 2nd last corner, I dove into a gap about my handle bar width, taking the inside line, which put me in the lead. I tried to hold that position but Coryn got the front before the final corner. I followed her wheel as closely as possible through the corner and out, but just didn’t have that extra 1/2 metre in me to take the win in the final 100m. It was a great result for Vanderkitten (financially too), I finished 4th overall in the event and we can safely say we can arrive at our next destination with a full tank of gas! Next stop: Minnesota for Norths Star GP ( 5 day stage race).