Feeling recharged after my adventures in Hot Springs and ready to attack the last few weekends of the season, I headed on to Tulsa and the site of the next race - Rut’s N Guts. Having lived for a few years in Oklahoma and quite possibly having competed in my very first cross race in that state there is a definite component of “coming home” when I get headed that way.
As I crossed the Arkansas river to pass in to Oklahoma, I spotted a trail along that looked perfectly situated for an easy spin. I flipped the van around to find a quiet visitor center and miles of peaceful river front trail. Pretty much the perfect mid ride recovery spin!
I arrived in Oklahoma for an evening or dinner with my hosts and a day of prep for the weekends racing. I opted to take a tour of the farm fields of Broken Arrow by getting lost on the way to the venue. Fortunately there was still plenty of time to shred some laps with friends and get a good feel for the course before dark.
The energy this community brings into the race weekend is practically tangible. The course improves each year and the crew has no end of fun trucking in sand for an uphill/downhill pit, creating multiple sets of stairs all in different mediums, building scaffolding viewing platforms, setting up multiple beer gardens, adding a forest of inflatable holiday festive decorations, and packing in just enough technical, twisty turny racing to keep you on your toes.
The start stretch was a long stretch false flat pavement with about 30 feet of elevation drop in the first 40 seconds. These tend to make for drawn-out start sprints and I was washed back in the pack after puckering when passing under the narrowed finish line scaffolding.
The course features numerous pinch points that offer a variety of line choices and the most technical of them was a drop into a ditch that was changing each lap. Being near the center of the pack on the first lap didn't do me any favors and it took a bit of time to emerge from the chaos.
When I finally came clear I was making headway leading a group of five riders until I took a tumble in the muddy ditch that claimed most riders at least once that day. It was a soft landing but it took me a little bit to make up the ground I had lost and get back to business.
I managed a clean race for the rest of the day holding on to the spots I tracked down but I opted to run rather than ride through the ditch from there forward! There was definitely good motivation to get a cleaner start on day two.
I managed to get myself lost again on the way to the venue Sunday. This time I toured the minimal exit toll road until I was clear in the next county. I made it back a few toll fees poorer but still with enough time to get prepped thankfully!
The course was mainly reversed on the second day with a few added stairs but the start was the same. I ended up in a similar spot with the same riders. I rode consistently and clean and landed myself in the same exact spot from the day before. Not exactly progress but definitely holding steady.
Pretty certain ever kid on a bike has taken a turn sitting in that mud puddle.
There's going to be a heck of an endo fest right here!
I’ll do a shot of fireball if you do a shot of fireball, or I can just do both of them.
We just need a cornhole tournament and people will come out of the woodwork!
Besides both my hosts racing a few teammates from the U.S. Military Endurance Sports program joined me to fly the colors and heckle.
After the race it was great to spend some time riding with local friends and seeing the "sights" of Tulsa!
After the race the community invited me to visit a local elementary after school program known as "Bike Club." The kids learn bike safety, life skills, are mentored by community figures, and receive a free bike and helmet for participating.
Kids with an aptitude for shredding can join the local development team which creates a unique and inspiring atmosphere of inclusion by having participants from an assortment of demographics. Seeing this first hand was one of my favorite moments of the season.
It was even more of a privilege to get outside and ride with the kids, of course I was challenged to more than a few races. The local news also came out to capture the fun and chat with me about getting more kids on bikes!
Visiting bike club at Rhoades Elementary in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma!
My wonderful hosts in Texas reached out to make sure I was coming to stay with them this year and I can't speak more highly about the tight knit community and how welcoming they are. I asked if maybe there could be less holiday cookies around this year and hopped in the van to head south.
I showed up for a Wednesday night local race and mini preview of the course. It was finally cold enough to race in flannel so the jorts came out to represent. The course was ((mostly!)) lit up and the vibe low key and festive.
The temps dropped to uncomfortable levels for the remainder of the week and I was quite happy to spend my time spinning close to the house and not suffering through miles of training rides.
Dallas has notoriously featured proper cross conditions (MUD) for the past few years consistently but this year the forecast called for seasonably warm temps and zero moisture. By Saturday the sun was out and the temperature on the rebound. Every year this course develops more interesting features and this year was no different.
The power sections in the open were broken up well with technical lines in the woods, a steep vertical assent up a gnarled rooty bank and a seemingly never-ending corner turning party along the back side of the course.
Saturdays start was clean and I was sitting in the tenth spot for a while. There was some back and forth as we made our way around and I ended up in a three way battle.
I was happily engulfed in the challenge when I snagged a front sidewall on a root and was forced to back off the gas. Mechanicals happen but it's alwasy a bummer to feel as though you didn't try as hard as you could have.
Sunday was much more iteresting with the course mainly reversed. The lengthy sand pit was now more of a downhill and rideable with the speed you carried in.
The crazy root run up was replaced with an equally steep pro only plunge followed by an immediate right hand turn that made for a fair choice of controlled speed descending or flying over the bars.
My start was solid if not better than Saturday, I was clean, going for the first corner and the following hill focused. The group dropped into the sand pit and chaos ensued.
Start and first lap day two Resolution Cross Cup, Garland, TX
Luck would have me on the clean line and I blasted my way straight to the top five. I had a solid race with no crashes or mechanicals, loosing some ground but enjoying the heck out of the added technical riding and doing what I could to leave it all out on the course.
I can definitely feel the fatigue of the season of racing closing in and was very happy to finish off the 2017 year of UCI racing with a performance that earned me a top ten and a late season point.
Play more of that Bedonladonk music, country does not make for fast racing!
Pretty sure my stomach was in my mouth the first few times down that thing.
That's not sand stuck to your leg! Look at those sparkle watts.
I know you want that video of your superman!
There is no end of good people to be around at these races. It's a privilege to be a part of this community. From fellow racers, host families, juniors learning the ropes, amazing photographers, and the crew of race directors that help each other to make these events possible, the quality friends I've made is humbling.
After taking one last ride in the now short sleeves and shorts tempts on some perfect manicured gravel and saying goodby to my host fam I loaded up and hit the road for one last adventure filled drive before some time at home.
First up was a stop in Palo Duro Canyon, where it's been over ten years since I last visited. The canyon is 120 miles long and the second largest in the U.S. after the Grand Canyon. Palo Duro features a rich if not tragic history and a gorgeous display of geology as well as warmer temps than the surrounding mesa and cotton fields.
I somehow forgot that I had meant to overnight in Palo Duro and after riding continued on through Amarillo heading north towards Capulin National Monument in northeastern New Mexico. After attempting to run out of gas in the middle-of-nowhere Texas, I overnighted at a rest area and showed up to the ancient volcano mid morning.
Disappointingly there is no bike riding up the monument during business hours so I was sent on a frigid short spin to the nearby historical town of Folsom before driving the van up the volcano instead. It would have been fantastic to ride up and earn the view but there was still a "wow" factor just to be up on top of an 8k foot, 60k year old volcano.
Being quite near home at this point I was getting excited to make it back. With one quick stop to commemorate my arrival back I finished up the trip and arrived home that evening.
Colorado winters are typically a hair bipolar. One day it's a t-shirt and the next it's single digits. Either way sunshine is in abundance and the trails are usually rideable.
Not-my-cat wasn't too sad I was home again either.
With some solid time regrouping at home the temps plunged just in time to rally for a weekend practice race. I received an extra warm welcome from my favorite Colorado racers to combat the frigid temperatures and joined them for a throw-down in the snow and mud. The reunion and many hugs were even better than landing on top of the hay bale!