Tulsa Tough River Parks Criterium – Crybaby Hill

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Yesterday I bit the bullet and drove down to Tulsa for the last day of Tulsa Tough.  It took a fair amount of initiative to do it, which is sort of counter intuitive, since I am a bicycle racer.   But loading up my stuff and driving nearly 4 hours to a race that is most likely going to be held in a down pour, took a bunch of personal fortitude.

I couldn’t convince anyone else to go with me.  Most the guys from around here were already down there and Bill is still recovering from his broken ribs and collapsed lung, while Brian was on the fence, but then when it said 70% chance of rain, he decided to ride gravel locally.

If it was another race, I might have just stayed here, but Tulsa is maybe my favorite race of the season and Sunday is my favorite race of the weekend.

The course is less than a mile, with one short climb, Crybaby Hill, which is more like a rave than a section of a bike race.  And the final corner is off-camber, two man-hole covers and just a couple hundred meters from the finish line.  Needless to say, it’s a little tricky, especially when it is wet.

I haven’t been riding very well the last few days since returning from Colorado.  I was, and still am, emotionally drained.  That is part of the reason I just made an executive decision and went through the paces to race.  I know how to do that and the process has certain simplicity that is easy for me and it takes little mental strength.

So, Trudi and I loaded up and started the drive directly south.   We drove through a few isolated showers, but it didn’t stress me out too much.  I knew that it was going to be hit or miss for rain at any particular time in Tulsa.

Upon arriving in Tulsa, near the course, I started getting a little nervous.  It was in the upper 80’s and so humid.  Plus, getting near the course, there were 1000’s of cars and I knew parking was going to be an issue.  I stopped at a Quicktrip to get some ice and it was sold out.  And there were tons of oddly dressed people making their way to the race.  It looked more like Halloween than a bike race.

I found a place to park, semi-shade, which relieved a ton of nervousness.  I got my bike out and went over to get a number.  I did a couple laps of the course and my legs and most of my other parts, felt pretty good.  That was reassuring.

I rode about 10 miles south along the river and then came back to camp out at the start.  The women were racing and right when I got back, they were going for a $2500 prime.  The women have an equal prize list of the men, plus the primes, which were much more than the men. That seems a little off, since there were 3X as many guys in the Pro 1 race than the women’s race. Plus there was a full 1/2 field too, so there were close to 250 Pro 1/2 guys there.

Anyway, with about 10 laps to go, storms moved in and the carnage began.  Riders started falling on the last corner.  Then lightening, so they neutralized the race.  By then, I was under a pop-up tent.  It was pouring.

So, 30 minutes later, they finished the women’s race.  Erica Allar beat Samantha Schneider  to the line.  All the women made it thru the final corner on the last lap incident free, which was nice.  I hate watching riders fall right before starting a wet criterium.

The men then rushed the line.  I had went to the porta-potty one last time and when I came out, they were just opening up “the gates”.  I started riding fast to the start/finish line and some idiot official was trying to stop about 1/2 the field from just riding to the line on the road and grabbed my arm as I rode by at about 15 mph.  He nearly threw me on the ground.  I told the dude to get his “fucking hands” off of me.  Then I “calmly” explained to him that there is no place in cycling for official touching riders, other than holding them up for a free lap, or at the start of a time trial.  I could go on and on about this, but it really turned out to be a non-issue.  It was a non-issue, because they decided to do a neutral lap at the start, which the field was adamantly against.  No racer wants a neutralized lap at the start of a rainy criterium.   But, again, a non-issue.

The road was pretty wet and the first few laps were tense.  The final corner was tricky of course and trying to scrub speed and the downhill, to negotiate the corner was pretty much more intense than climbing the hill on the other side.

Eventually, it kept drying out and the course just got better.  At the pit, they kept throwing riders in virtually every lap.  Sometimes just one guy, but more common was a group, sometimes huge groups, of what seemed to be nearly 1/2 the field.  I personally only saw one rider fall all day, which probably reflects I was riding towards the front of the field when the course was treacherous.

The last 1/3 of the race, the course was pretty dry.  At least dry enough to take the last corner at full speed.  I felt pretty good, never really suffering, which was nice.  I was going to try for a couple primes, but it was super difficult hearing the announcers, Dave Towle and Greg Saunders.  I finally realized it was going to be a field sprint with about 10 laps to go, so I just tried to stay out of trouble.

I really enjoy the last couple laps of hard criteriums.  Positioning is key and I know where I need to be.  The key is getting there.

I was pretty good, but on the last lap, I got shuffled back heading into the hill.  I knew I was screwed.  I got passed by a ton of guys and had to make a huge effort to get back into the top 15.  I passed a few more guys, but started down the hill to the last corner in horrible position.  I have only passed one or two guys from the last corner to the finish in all the times I’ve raced the event.

This year was no different.  I went around the last corner in 12th and finished 12th.  No what I was hoping for, but it could have been worse.  There were a lot of guys riding around with huge holes in the shorts, so I have to consider myself mildly lucky for having all my skin.

I got the chance to catch up with Tim Carrigg, the go to guy for the race.  He is personally responsible for this race being so successful all these years.  The race already has sponsorship for the next few years.   This year it was bigger and better than ever.

The drive back was nice.  I was all full of endorphins from the race and I like driving at night, so it was enjoyable.  We didn’t get back to Topeka until after midnight.  It was easy to unpack, since it was just a one day race.  I was still a little wound up from the race, so scrubbed my shoes, washed my clothes, etc.  I didn’t clean my bike though.

The day was exactly what I needed.  I needed to race in the rain, to get some self-confidence back.  It was easy peasy.  I had no issues.  Plus, it is always nice feeling good.  The course was hard and Crybaby Hill was out of control as always.

I did get wacked a couple by spectators when riding towards the end of the field.  I also grabbed a few dollars from the crowd, cyclo-x style, so was already in the positive no matter how the end turned out.  I wish I would have had a little better luck not getting shuffled back at the end, but I find historically, that happens when you aren’t good enough to control your destiny.  I felt like I was better than 12th, but that is where I finished, so the result is the result.

Overall, it was a super experience and one I’m already looking forward to for next year.

Crybaby Hill is a street party.

Crybaby Hill is a street party.

The 1/2's going through the final corner.  Off-camber and a little trick when wet.

The 1/2’s going through the final corner. Off-camber and a little trick when wet.

The expo area was hopping until the storms moved in.

The expo area was hopping until the storms moved in.

The people walking to the race added to the pre-race "excitement".

The people walking to the race added to the pre-race “excitement”.

Here I am riding next to Chad Cagle.  Chad had a great weekend, finishing 3rd on Saturday and 5th yesterday.

Here I am riding next to Chad Cagle, who is a Tulsa local. Chad had a great weekend, finishing 3rd on Saturday  night and 5th yesterday.

Results.  Click to enlarge.

Results. Click to enlarge.




21 thoughts on “Tulsa Tough River Parks Criterium – Crybaby Hill

  1. Ben

    Hey Steve, the wheelman next to you in that last pic is actually Scott Gibson. Also a super strong rider and a Tulsa favorite. He has a 4 day old and still managed to put out a decent race on the hill yesterday. Thanks for coming down to Tulsa.

    1. Levi

      So is that the reason he has a child’s toy strapped to his head?

      Bike Nerds are a strange sort….

  2. the chopper

    If I was the USAC volunteer/official you would not have raced after that interaction. Chalk it up to your week but…

    1. Mike Rodose

      Your mindset is problemlatic, chopper. If officials can’t factor in the emotional and adrenaline component of racers, they don’t deserve to be in that position of authority. It seems in this case the official made an egregious error. Steve responded emotionally at first, then factually.

      By not making a huge issue of Steve’s reaction, the official demonstrated a rationality and understanding. A less secure official may have made a stink, to demonstrate their absolute power, even after initiating the interaction by physically grabing a racer.

      1. the chopper

        Rationalization after the fact

        I am sure all the families and little kids in earshot loved the “interaction”

      2. Scott W

        Rules for the weekend clearly stated that all riders must enter the course from the corral. If you chose not to then you have to wait until after all the riders who waited properly to leave the corral. It had been that way at Tulsa for a couple years.

      3. josh

        Steve and the riders he parted the way for didn’t follow the rules or officials orders and lined up outside the designate area and were able to circumvent myself and the 50-60 others who had been waiting a LONG time to get a good starting position.

    2. gehry

      It wasn’t a non-issue. A couple of issues here (all at once):

      A) An official gives you specific directions? You follow them. Disagree with his directions? You have an avenue of appeal / argument for that (at the appropriate time and place).

      B) No one (official or athlete) is allowed to grab or handle anyone else. There are other ways for an official to take action.

      I have no idea if Steve had violated any previously stated rules (either as an individual or as part of a “mob”), as I wasn’t there (and he did not mention).

      F-word was not necessary, was it?

  3. Cris C

    Steve did I hear Franky say you won a preem? It sounded like you won some kind of painting.

  4. Gabby

    That’s Scott Gibson w the doll on his helmet. His and his wife just had a baby boy 5 days ago. Pretty incredible he can focus on bike racing when he’s got a new born at home.

    1. Jon

      Pretty selfish of him to focus on his bicycle racing hobby when his wife and newborn baby are barely out of the hospital.

      Have some respect for your duties as a father. Some people take bicycle racing FAR too seriously.

      1. Ron

        Dude, get a clue Dr. Phil. You have no idea as to what the fuck you are even talking about. Complete fucking moron.

      2. donkybhoy

        I bet his wife told him to go. Bet his wife had her Mother and her Mother in Law both lending a hand.

        Plenty of wives dont want to see their husbands after going through birth. I speak from experience. And he only went and participated in a bike race not a round the world trip. A few hours off.

  5. Wildcat

    It was many years ago, but our first child was born on a Wednesday and he made an appearance at our tailgate party for the K-State football game that following Saturday. Passion is an incredible thing. I bet Scott didn’t think twice about racing. And he’ll have a great story for the little one. Congrats Scott!

  6. Mark Hotchkin

    I don’t know if you saw it from your vantage point in 12th, but I was home watching online, and 2 guys in front of you came THIS close to totally losing their rear wheels in the last turn. Without rewatching, it was Illesic or Van Nacher and then Cagle or Schmalz right after that. They proved they belonged up there by keeping their bikes upright, but they were millimeters from causing some trouble for you guys.

    Glad you stayed safe and felt good, despite “only” finishing 12th. Tulsa Tough weekend is definitely a bucket list vacation.

    To follow the theme of some other comments, my son was 6 days old on my first dad ride, and I’ve raced numerous times in his first 2 months alive – all with my wife’s blessing. I’m going to hope that Jon might have just been trolling for some reason.

  7. Ducky

    12th place in a giant field. Not to shabby. Actually…really really good for an older fellow like yourself. Get down! I have to figure you feel like you could do better, you say as much yourself, which I suspect is one of the main reasons you can still place 12th in a field where many riders could be your grand kids! Keep it up, you give us other older guys a tremendous amount of inspiration.

  8. Spade

    I’ve gotta hand it to you Mr Tilford. Although I can’t stand your incessant doping diatribes the fact that you can jump into a race of that caliber at your age with minimal recent racing and finish 12th is remarkable. My hat is off to you sir.

  9. Nathan

    The neutral lap was to honor Tim Carrigg and Malcolm McCollam by having them lead the field for the 1st lap of the 10th Tulsa Tough. I was extremely impressed with how professional the riders at the front were by riding shoulder-to-shoulder just behind them.

  10. Bob Huerta

    So great for cycling to have you as participant and someone who adds the feel of all the color of our Thing-life w/the simple bicycle.


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