First off, you should know that I literally called up the race on the telephone to see if the race was down to have us back, you know, because of Knife Fight-gate and “Tony Patrick” and the doping allegations and all that. And the race, Malcolm, was like Yeah you guys are super dumb but you should totally come back and I was like What could we do, how do we make amends or become like, a force for good and a positive member of the Tulsa Tough community? That’s when Malcolm was like Daniel, have you ever heard of the Ace Challenge? It’s part of the fondo series we do over the course of the weekend. We’re trying to grow that and make that into a “thing” along with all the crit racing. And I was like, But Malcolm, friends don’t let friends fondo. Joking. I didn’t say that, I just thought it.
But then I was like wait, Daniel, dude, fondo’ing is apparently part of the new MFS repertoire—and maybe has been for the last year at least: Sagando, Taiwan KOM Challenge, Paris Roubaix Sportive, Red Hook Milan… ring any bells? Also that’s when Malcolm went on to explain how the Ace Challenge IS NOT like your grandfather’s sportive. It’s 103 miles and you have to finish it in under five hours if you want a special limited edition custom Eliel X Ace Challenge kit, which is why everyone participating is encouraged to work together for the greater good—it doesn’t matter how much you beat the five hour cut-off by, what matters is trying to get everyone who starts to the finish line before the cut-off—and the whole race-ride is led/supported by a combination rolling enclosure and police escort. Which, yeah, that all sounded super neat so I said Yes, of course I’d love to help you promote the Ace Challenge by riding it and possibly even sitting in the wind to help drag a bunch of norms to victory. I figured it would be good training and I thought it would be easy because it sounded so basic and basic stuff is always easy. I explained to Malcolm that I would be riding the Ace Challenge in addition to racing all three Men’s Cat 3 races. Which led to a discussion about how Saturday could be a real BIG day for me. Ace Challenge in the morning, Brady Arts in the afternoon. No sweat. We also discussed how riding on the front of the Ace Challenge in the wind for the Norms would be fun to promote as Pasley’s Penance. And then, finally, we arranged for MFS to sponsor three $500.00 Most Animal Primes: one for the Cat 3 Men’s race on Friday, one for the Men’s Pro race on Saturday, and one for the Women’s Pro race on Saturday.
“Shit was dialed. He was stoked. I was stoked. Everyone was stoked.”
Based on all this Ace Challenge business and the reg MFS coverage deliverables, my itinerary went something like this:
- Shoot a Human Athlete Visual Showcase called “Tulsa Rough” with Team LA Sweat. [Coming Soon!]
- Video Interview Daniel Holloway just like Peter Sagan, only different.
- Most Animal the fuck out of the Cat 3 Men’s race—BUT DON’T WIN MY OWN PRIME.
- Photograph the Men’s and Women’s Pro Races.
- Drag Norms past a bunch of barking dogs and reservoirs in the heat, humidity and hills of greater Tulsa for roughly five hours.
- Do penance, be a hero.
- Survive the Cat 3 Men’s race.
- Photograph the Men’s and Women’s Pro Races.
- Video Interview Erica Allar.
- Win the Cat 3 Men’s race.
- Witness a live sex show on #CryBabyHill.
- Photograph the Men’s and Women’s Pro Races.
- Don’t pass out.
“Of course all of that kinda happened and but NONE of it happened the way I wanted it to. Like, at all.”
Speaking of which, let me tell you something right now. Last year’s Tulsa Tough was one of the best three day runs of my life. We crushed it. I had so much fun. Everything went right in terms of how I raced, my equipment worked great, I was in the zone in terms of covering/documenting the pro races, I was with a big crew in an AirBnB not far from downtown Tulsa, my schedule was reasonable and had good flow, people were feeling the fuck out of the Knife Fight program, the Team Party Time tattoo session was crazy amazing, I had plenty of time to drink Pedialyte which is disgusting but effective, even the slowly but steadily unfolding “Tony Patrick” drama was a source of delight and wonder and positive energy. The next three months were a total fucking nightmare but I didn’t know that then.
Anyway, here’s what happened this year.
- Don’t stay in the Best Western Route 66. It’s overpriced, hard to find, close to everything but in a not-close to everything kinda way. Also the elevators there are, at the very least, going to trap someone—if not kill them—any second. It’s imminent. It’s not if but when. They’re basically lying in wait like a couple of improperly maintained four-story volcanos.
- Friday morning I overslept, no big deal, I needed the sleep. But also, already kinda off the back now.
- Met the new LA Sweaters. They’re great. The blue in their kit in the Tulsa sun against the backdrop of downtown Tulsa—abandoned and stunning as always, an apocalyptic skatepark basically—was pretty fucking cool but I was sucking hard at taking pictures right from the start. We’re publishing those photographs soon. You’ll see, they’re cool but only because it’s a grip of ladies in SIQ uniforms having fun in Tulsa and NOT because I did anything right with a camera.
- Speaking of cameras my 80 billion dollar state-of-the-art Canon 1DX Mark II started to die that morning. I thought I fixed it in the coffee shop. I didn’t.
- I accidentally dropped my Tarmac’s internal, quasi-integrated seatpost clamp all the way down into deep dark recess of my seat tube where it got stuck AF. I tried SO HARD not to do this but I did it anyway.
- Because I don’t travel with a spelunking lamp and various Civil War-era surgical tools I had to find a bike shop and drop my bike off for an hour for them to fuck with it.
- Dear Specialized Designer who designed this, FUCK YOU. Seriously, you suck, you know nothing about bikes and people and life in the modern world. You should be fired. I hate you. I love Specialized everything so hard and on the reg, but NOT this.
- I raced to DEEP south—maybe it was north, who cares, point is it was hella deep—Tulsa for a video interview with Daniel Holloway. [Editor’s Note: It was east.]
- I was late and in a panic so I ate white flour units from Starbucks, two of them.
- The video interview was amazing because it turns out when the person you’re interviewing actually answers questions and engages with you—that’s right Peter, I’m throwing shade—it makes the WHOLE THING SO MUCH better.
- In the course of racing my race I invented a new MFS thing called Most Domesticated Animal. 😔😬 Yeah, I def did not animate the race. I sat in and still only managed to finish 30th. I thought about giving my socks and Most Animal kit away.
- Five minutes into the Women’s Pro race my 80 billion dollar state-of-the-art Canon 1DX Mark II finally died-died.
- I didn’t have a second DSLR to shoot with because my backup died two weeks earlier at the Giro. Seriously, Canon, you’re killing me.
- Ten minutes later the battery in my second back-up camera, a Leica Q, died.
- I watched-but-did-not-shoot the Men’s race. I ate two slices of emotional pizza—the first pizza I’ve eaten in like five months, and my third and fourth white flour units of the day. Everyone reading this has seen the the movie Dodgeball right, you know the end, yeah.
- I went home late, dejected, rejected and dehydrated.
- I strapped Fondo shit to my bike at 12:01am.
- You can’t find coffee in downtown Tulsa at 6:45 am on a Saturday. Like. You literally and actually can’t find one. It doesn’t exist. What. The. Fuck.
- I gotta tell you, doing a sub-five-hour century that morning was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Maybe the single lowest PMA of 2018. Plus everyone else was feeling it. Jock jams, selfies, high fives, smiles, I was surrounded by eagerness and happiness, I hated it. Dave Towle was funny though because they couldn’t get his wireless mic to work right and he was obvs feeling a little “punchy” about it.
- The Eilel crew was called-up to the front of the Ace Challenge start, and Malcolm explained to the field (about sixty-deep) that they were there to drag the rest of us around. I don’t know what they did last year but I’m glad they did it because while know I said I was going to do the same—ride on the front, Pasley’s Penance and all that—I could already tell that I was going to ride VERY poorly.
- Couple things, because this Fondo was the best and worst part of my weekend.
- It was the best because the format really is powerful. After a little less than five hours riding with the same people, cycling through the field, talking, chatting, working together, sharing a collective objective, etc… shit feels tight. These are your people. You feel united and bonded and yeah, it feels cool AF to ride across the finish line at 4:47 with basically EVERYONE that started.
- It was the worst because after riding on the front with Eilels for the first half I was housed so hard I barely finished. Here I thought I was going to be a savior to all the Norms, the lady with a Camelbak and the tri bars, the dude with mirror on his helmet and the baggy-stretched-out gripper tape shorts, etc., and in the end, it was all I could do to stay on their wheel(s). In particular, it was the Tulsa Wheelmen that wound-up keeping the pace where it needed to be for the last fifty miles. Basically anyone in the field who could tell you what Rapha or Manual for Speed is was destroyed by mile 70, and everyone else, especially the folks in white crew socks, finished strong. Respect. Hey Norms, you fuckers are legit, way to show the cool kids how’s it done. Seriously, I loved it.