You know what Tulsa needs? More pelotons. What is a peloton you ask? The literal French translation is little ball or platoon. The T-Town translation? A gaggle of competitive cyclists racing through downtown attached at the elbow.
If it's competitive cycling time then you know it is Tulsa Tough time. The Saint Francis-sponsored event keeps growing in stature while remaining a must watch local spectacle.
The event enters its sixth year. It takes place June 10-12. Visit tulsatough.com for specific race details and registration.
Friday evening's backdrop is the Blue Dome District. The men and women riders catch an up close view of 1st, 2nd and 3rd streets as well as Detroit, Elgin and Greenwood.
On Saturday, racers move to the Brady Village Criterium. The day features races and entertainment for the whole family. Race enthusiasts pick a spot and take in the street legal adrenalin rush.
The Sunday Riverview Criterium uses the river's natural beauty for scenery. The hilly course tests even the most experienced racers.
Perhaps the most popular spectator event is the Tulsa Townie. Hundreds of kids and adults cruise the Sunday strip simultaneously. The hope is that several Tulsa youths find a new hobby, which could lead to overall health in the long run.
Fun and games for sure, but the competitive spirits reign supreme. The event is recognized by USA Cycling. It was added to the National Racing Calendar a couple of years ago. Through the Tulsa Tough website you can link to every race from a year ago. These guys and gals are serious.
Competing in his fourth Tulsa Tough is Nick Kiernan of Elbowz Racing Elite Cycling Team, the No. 1 amateur race team in the nation. This is the first year for the Elbowz race team, but Kiernan and his teammates have experienced the event previously.
Elbowz Racing is based out of Dallas. The team has corporate sponsors. The members trek across the country and will race 80-85 days this year. The Tulsa stop is a no-brainer for them.
"Each year the event is bigger and bigger in both the depth of racing and the response from the Tulsans," Kiernan said. "The electricity in the streets really is amazing."
It is true. Do not take my word for it, ask around. Anyone who has taken in the fast-paced racing will attest to the race's visual stimulation.
Tulsans might take the Blue Dome, Brady and Riverside areas for granted but not the visitors.
"It's a little slice of California mixed in with the Midwest," Kiernan said. He cites the super friendly people repeatedly. The overall support shown by our city is commendable.
At the heart of it all the friendly, down-to-earth people is Tulsa's unofficial cycling welcoming committee.
"Everybody treats us great," he said. "Hell, last year I ended up hanging out at my favorite bar, the Soundpony, until well after close."
Kiernan talked with the club's owners all night and said he didn't pay for a single beer. "That's the general vibe us out-of-towners feel," he said. "It seems like everybody is just stoked to have us. It really is a great time."
T-Town's cycling scene is expanding. Riders from across the country are taking note.
"I've heard rumors of a weekday ride that is one of the best in the country," Kiernan said. "I hope to make it up sometime and check it out."
Tulsa is well represented. Race teams such as Team Soundpony, Tulsa Wheelmen and 918XC Racing CRUNCH Productions are just a few of the Okies on spokies flying through the streets trying to protect home turf.
The overall number of participants dipped last year compared to 2009. With our weather pattern, it is possible we can blame Travis Meyer. This year should tell the story. Can Tulsa Tough regain momentum or will the shine begin to wear off?
With Lance Armstrong's ongoing public drama and America's lack of a Tour de France presence, perhaps cycling is on the decline.
"Sure, Lance is larger than life and a great guy by the way," Kiernan said. "So anything negative about him has a negative impact on the sport."
But the Tulsa event appears stable. The right people are running the weekend the right way.
"Most people see us as a bunch of idiots riding around in leotards, which is true for the most part, but when they actually come out to watch the racing they are amazed at the speeds we ride and the constant action the sport provides.
"Heck, when we lay it down in turn 4, we ain't got a roll cage to protect us," Kiernan said.
The latest doping accusations are once again directed at Lance Armstrong. A 60 Minutes piece (yes, the show is still on) added more smoke to the alleged fire.
Armstrong has remained steadfast in his denials. Ask Roger Clemens how that turned out for him.
Whether guilty or not, perhaps Armstrong needs to take the bike by the handles.
Hold a press conference wearing a French beret and a wispy moustache. Declare victory over the French.
Ridicule them for failing to catch you cheating in the past. Tout your greatness in the sport of cycling and ability to dupe the French.
And if you do all this in Tulsa, even better.
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