Obviously things went better the final day at Tulsa. No one on our team really has a good sprint. Everyone sprints okay. I do pretty well when I’m going good, but that is usually just a position deal. So we need harder courses to allow the natural selection to occur. And Sunday in Tulsa is a hard course. The climb isn’t necessarily the deciding factor. It’s the roller after the climb and the acceleration out of the final, off-camber corner that does the damage to the field. The “Slinkey” effect out of the final turn is amazingly hard if you’re more than 30 guys back. You are just reattached back when you have to start the climb. It allows no recovery.
We, the TradeWind Energy Team always try to ride offensively. I’m not too much into defensive riding. It makes for a boring race that isn’t fun. We don’t chase. If we miss the break, we missed the break. That is when the racing occurs, when the break is forming. Ride at the front and race when it is hard. That is what bike racing should be in my opinion.
That is why I couldn’t understand the Hotel San Jose’s Team tactics the previous two days. They had the biggest team in the race, by numbers, and they were controlling the race for a field sprint each night. Josh Carter from their team has an awesome sprint, obviously, but sprinting at night, in a criterium, is sometimes a crap shoot. Usually. Why not race offensively when you have so many good riders on your team?
Anyway, the course on Sunday, being so hard, suited us better. I was/am still just mediocre. Brian had “energy” building from the previous two nights. He placed the night before, but that didn’t alleviate much of his frustrations. Brian has won this race two previous times. The course is nearly perfect for him. The hill isn’t crazy steep and if you have a lot of power that you can use on the rest of the course, it is super advantageous.
The temperature was hot, upper 80’s, but not suffocating. The race started out pretty quickly. The crowd on the hill was crazy. Crazy by numbers. Crazy fun. It seemed appropriate that it was the same time as the Philly Race. I think it was better than riding up Manayunk Wall. There were no barriers and the crowds were right there in your face. That, with the music and water spraying made it super fun. For the riders and the spectators.
We were all riding at the front most of the time. Brian was not going to miss a break. I’m pretty sure he didn’t. Every break until he rode away solo. He even bridged up to a 4 man break I had initiated. I rode a lap with him and told him, “I’m going back to the field, good luck.” I wasn’t feeling good for one, and for two, didn’t want to have to ride around that course at Brian’s pace.
So, Brian finally got away with Adam Bergman, Texas Roadhouse and Stefan Rothe, Hotel San Jose. We got to the front pretty instantly. It is a very easy course to slow the field down. I stayed there until the remaining Hotel San Jose guys left in the field showed up a couple laps later.
Brian won the $500 prime, so with Chris winning the night before, that was 2 out of the 3 days, which was nice. A couple guys attacked out of the field and eventually made it up to the break. But, it was too late. Brian put in a little tester surge with 3 laps to go and Stefan said something to him like, “you don’t need to do that, you’re going to win.” And a little later Adam said something like “it has been nice riding with you, congratulations.” Maybe not exactly those words, but it was obvious what was going to happen. Brian took off with two laps to go and finished alone.
Jelly Belly put all its guys up front with 3 laps to go and took an amazing amount of time out of the break. I was positive it wasn’t going to be caught, but they went really fast the last two laps. They had set up the field sprint great, but got swarmed going down the hill to the final tricky corner. I was one of those swarming. I followed Chad Cagle, who is pretty quick, down the hill, but ended up having a bad line over a manhole cover. I went around the corner 3rd or 4th in the field, but lost so much speed that another 4 guys passed me in the last 200 meters. So, I finished 13th. Jelly Belly got so swarmed that they finished 14th and 15th on the day. But, it didn’t matter. They had the overall already locked up. Chris Hall was riding at the front all day and finished 19th.
The race was good. There was just about the right mix of good riders on enough good teams to make it interesting. It was nice to only have 3 or 4 guys from Jelly Belly, Bahati, Kelly Benefits, etc. so the racing stayed active, even thought the first two races ended up field sprints.
I’m not sure Brian has raced 15 races this season. But winning Battenkill and now the final, tough-guy, stage at Tulsa Tough NRC, he should feel pretty good about his form.
Tulsa is a super fun town. I like staying in downtown areas of cities like this. All three races were at awesome settings and the crowds are very knowledgeable about the sport. The prize money is good. If I could spend every weekend like this, bike racing would be more fun than it already is.