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Tulsa’s annual cycling event is as much fun for spectators as competitors.
By Steve Larese
Published May/June 2015
It’s not a hallucination. When cyclists start seeing Wonder Woman, Roman centurions, and adults dressed as babies cheering them on, they know they’ve reached Cry Baby Hill. This spot on West Thirteenth Street is the raucous apex of St. Francis Tulsa Tough, a weekend of racing, touring, and partying that celebrates its tenth anniversary this June. Thousands of cyclists spin into Tulsa to vie for cash prizes in USA Cycling-sanctioned races or ride for bragging rights in Gran Fondo tours that can cover more than a hundred miles a day.
“It’s Mardi Gras meets the Tour de France,” says Tulsa Tough event director Malcolm McCollam. “At the Tour, you wait hours for fifteen minutes of riders going by, and that’s it. Our party lasts all day.”
Cry Baby Hill got its name during Tulsa Tough’s first year, when race spectator Josh Gifford found an abandoned baby doll in the street. He held it high in the air as grimacing racers pedaled up the hill. His fellow fans began chanting, “Don’t be a crybaby,” and Cry Baby Hill quickly became a crowd favorite.
“A lot of people who aren’t from here are surprised to find that Oklahoma is really hilly,” says Paul Haines of Tulsa, who has ridden every 70-mile Gran Fondo tour and is training for the 110-mile ride this year. “You have to train and dig down deep to complete. You need to practice climbing hills. Just riding at River Parks won’t cut it.”
Mike Wozniak, who races with Team Soundpony Triad Bank, says Tulsa Tough has become the city’s signature event.
“Tulsa is the place to be in the cycling world that weekend if only for the party and camaraderie,” he says. “It’s a big deal to go race Tulsa Tough now. It’s on every national racer’s calendar.” For those not ready for a hundred-mile ride, Tulsa Tough offers the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation Townie Ride. Families and casual riders follow five- or eight-mile routes beginning at West Fifteenth Street and Galveston on Riverside Drive.
“It’s so great to see so many people out riding and enjoying the city,” says Tulsa Tough spokesperson Stacey Roggendorff, who rides the Townie with her family. “Tulsa Tough shows what Tulsa is about.”
Get There: Tulsa Tough is June 12 through 14. For more information, visit tulsatough.com.