I’ve done most of the regional tour rides two to three times now. The first time I started tour rides it was pretty nerve-wracking. The second time I did some tours, I had a better idea of what I’d go through, and though there was still plenty of excitement, my worry-meter had dropped pretty far down. For events that I’ve ridden a few times (like Flower Power, Dam J.A.M., and bike MS) worry is pretty much gone, replaced with the “Let’s have fun!” feeling of going out for a good, long ride.
But Tulsa Tough… that’s a beast of a different nature.
It’s only a day away. Well, really it starts today, but my participation in the two days of Gran Fondo rides starts tomorrow. And I’m not sure if the Friday night Blue Dome crits – with eight 90° turns at ultra-high speeds, cheering crowds and pro racers – makes me more or less worried, but they’re a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
What is it about this awesome – and awe-inspiring – event that makes me so nervous?
Well, first its history. My two previous outings have been, shall we say, less than stellar. The first year, I didn’t have a friggin’ clue what I was in for and only made it 91 miles. The second year I injured my foot on the ride, and barely made 77. What else can make me nervous?
IT’S HARD!!! I swear, the word “Tough” is really a misnomer. Okay, it ain’t exactly the Duaphine or Giro, but I ain’t exactly Jens Voigt either. :p At some point in the last three years of riding, I’ve covered every road, roller, and hill of both the Saturday 109 and Sunday 104 routes. However, I’ve never covered them all at once.
But you know what? It’s supposed to be hard. It’s gotta be, because just like adding one more HC climb or mountain-top finish to a Pro race, we have to push ourselves. It’s in the nature of what we do.
All that being said, and with my worry-meter pegged just like our typical Summer thermometers, I’m also ridiculously excited. This is it, boys and girls! As hard as this ride is, and as unfortunate as my finishes have been the last couple of years, I wouldn’t miss it for anything! That worry and excitement that I have in me? When I line up with the other 1,500+ riders on Saturday, it all swells to an indescribable energy that piles into the pedals.
And it doesn’t stop there. The volunteers at the rest stops for the Tough are second-to-none. Not only do they have everything you’d need or want, they also get caught-up in the energy and excitement of the riders. There’s this back-and-forth effect of you being excited to be there, and them being excited you’re there, and you being excited that they’re excited, and… you get the idea.
After the rides, you should arrive in time to catch those Saturday and Sunday crit races. And I don’t mean just our local riders, tearing up the downtown streets. I mean national-level pros lined up and pulverizing the pavement (along with our local heroes giving them what for!), with some of the most energetic crowds I’ve ever seen.
So am I worried? You bet your gears. But am I excited? Dude… I can’t wait for tomorrow morning.
Good luck to everyone racing and riding at this unique event.