A matter of heat this weekend in Tulsa, OK. Hot crit racing, loud enthusiastic crowds and big purse this weekend at the St Francis Tulsa Tough, $50K for the pro/1 men and $30K for the pro 1/2 women in the 3-day omnium event which is on the NRC for the men, as 2.5.1 race but not on the NRC for the women. The organizers requested NRC for both men and women, but citing a conflict with the Air Force Cycling Classic also this weekend, USA Cycling awarded the designation only for the men.
Weather has played a major part in past editions of the race, with thunderstorms and wind causing the shortening and cancellation of some races in 2009, and heat with highs of over 100F in 2010. This year, the predictions are for more hot weather – high in the 90s – with chances of thunderstorms. We’ll have to see what Mother Nature brings us this time.
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The word is out about the purse and the noisy fans lining the street for all three races. The men’s field is much deeper this year even with the race conflict with AFCC. Some of the fastest men in the North America are here to measure themselves against each other. What should make the racing even more interesting is many of the squads are only fielding 4 riders, leading to questioning if anyone can control the race?
Two-time defending champion Brad Huff (Jelly Belly pb Kenda) is returning but the man to watch on his 4-rider is Ken Hanson who had some good results at the Amgen Tour of California, US Pro where he finished top 10 after crashing and in Philly. They’ll have to contend with the fast Borrajo brothers, Alejandro and Anibal, on the Jamis/Sutter Home team who is fielding a strong 7-rider squad; and with Jonathan Cantwell and Ben Kersten of V Australia. Other sprinters to watch include Isaac Howe and Luca Damiani (Kenda/5-Hour Energy), Christian Helmig and Heath Blackgrove (ELBOWZ Racing), Logan Loader (RideClean), Rahsaan Bahati (SKILZ/Pisa Palace), Devan Dunn (CashCall) and Benny Swedberg and Steve Reaney (both CalGiant). One can’t forget Brian Jensen (Tradewind) who solo’ed to the win in the final day last year. (See list of pre-registered men)
Last year’s omnium winner Jennifer Purcell (Danbury Audi) is racing at AFCC but the women’s field is full of sprinters. Christina Gokey-Smith, who finished 3rd overall last year, is back with her new team NOW and Novartis for MS which includes wily Robin Farina. Primal/MapMyRide, with 7 pre-registered riders, has a lot of options to play with Tiffany Pezzulo, Nicky Wangsgaard and Emily Kachorek. Vanderkitten-Focus is in with 5 riders including Jazzy Hurikino ad Emily Collins. Sprinters racing solo or with only one teammates, and looking for the best wheel to follow in the finale, are Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom), Erica Allar (RideClean), Cari Higgins (Peanut Butter & Co TWENTY12) and Carrie Cash Wootten (Pedal the Cause). (See list of pre-registered women)
The series starts on Friday evening with the Blue Dome Criterium held on a challenging figure-eight course. The eight 90-degree corner 3/4 mile (1.2km) course passes nearly every bar and club in the Blue Dome District, pretty convenient that. The women start at 7:10 pm CT and race for 55 min, the men at 9:15 pm for 70 min.
The second crit, the Brady Village Criterium is held on an L-shaped course with 6 corners over 8/10 mile (1.3km) in the historic Brady Arts district. The women start at 6:35 pm for 60 min, the men at9:00 pm for 80 min.
The third and last crit, the technical Riverview Criterium, includes a short but challenging climb, known as Cry Baby Hill and right-hand hairpin curve in a residential neighborhood. The party is on Cry Baby Hill, with costumed fans, maybe lubricated, partying and manning hoses to cool down the riders at they climb. Though short, the climb is steep and combined with the heat, it’s a leg sapper. In 2010, the winner came from break that finally made it, solo in the case of the men. The women start at 2:10 pm for 60 min, the men at 4:25 pm for 80 min.