tulsa tough.

title-imageFor those of you who don’t know, this is one amazing event that takes place within the borders of my great state. Apparently, this is the tenth year for Tulsa Tough. I say apparently because we rarely ever hear about it in OKC. In fact, there were many of my friends, who live in Tulsa, that had never heard of it.

In the first (or second) weekend in June, thousands of cyclists descend on downtown Tulsa. Days begin with amateur riders, and end with professional races that go on well into the night. The first two days are in downtown Tulsa, namely the Brady District. The core of downtown is essentially blocked off to provide area for courses and spectators. People are walking around, drinking, eating, and screaming.

Per tradition, we set up a camp across the street from the Soundpony. On a related note, Soundpony is possibly my favorite bar in Tulsa. To most people, it probably looks like a hipster paradise; bikes hanging all over the ceiling, music played from a turn table, and 80’s arcade games lining the hallway. I don’t care, though. It’s my own little patch of weird. What’s even better is the bar sponsors a racing group who rides in Tulsa Tough. They’re definitely the ‘home team’ since most riders are from out of state or even the country. But I digress a little.

Once the camp is set up, we have a cooler with beers and snacks. You hang out all day to watch the races. As I mentioned earlier, the riders are more at the professional level by the time the evening rolls around. By nightfall, the streets are packed with cheerleaders. From what I’m told, amateurs will head to the bars after the last race to get completely trashed. Professionals save themselves for Sundays’ main event: CRYBABY HILL.

1001061_10101229074057702_1891349605_nBelieve me, this is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. The hill is essentially at 13th and Riverside Drive. I’m not too familiar with the layout of the course, other than it contains a giant hill. These races last as long as 80 minutes. This year, they expected as many as 3,000 onlookers. I’m pretty sure they all showed up. People are in costumes. There is a band and a DJ. Booze is everywhere. Needless to say, it’s completely awesome. Referees in Roman Centurion garb enforce the “gap”. Every time the racers go by, people fill out into the street for dance party. When the pace car comes around (yes, there is a pace car, supported by refs on motorcycles), the guards clear the street to form a barrier so drunk morons can be spared from being owned by a cyclist going 30 miles an hour. It’s really pretty amazing that spectators aren’t hurt.

We were out here all day. Luckily, the weather was decent. It was only 85 degrees, as opposed to 105. Words can’t even do this justice. The energy out there is incredible. Everyone is there to support these riders (who are obviously giving up an awesome time to race instead) who have busted their ass all weekend in the races. They do a victory lap at the end of the races on Sunday, just to take in the love from the crowd. I consider it a small reward for being drunk all day (besides being drunk all day, of course). In our own way, we worked very hard too, right?

Take in sights. The tag-line for this years’ event was ‘Take Monday Off’. They definitely weren’t kidding…

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{photo credits for a couple of images given to Lindsay Wright and Eric Loggin}

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