An Aussie in America: reporting from Tulsa Tough

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At the moment in Australia, it’s the National Road Series mid-season break and I had essentially no races scheduled for two months. So some riders choose to leave the Aussie winter behind and chase experience racing internationally by guest riding with another team abroad.

With permission from my Australian team, Specialized Securitor, I made a huge step and travelled to the US to race my bike.

Like many Aussies in the past, I escaped Melbourne winter, left my my partner at home, took unpaid leave from my job and maxed my credit card out all to chase invaluable racing experience that will benefit my cycling career.

While in the US, I’m guest riding with a US domestic elite team called CRCA/ Stan’s NoTubes p/b Velo Classic Cycling. You can follow them on Instagram at @stans_veloclassic.

Nabbing a guest ride hasn’t been easy. I nearly thought it wouldn’t happen — I emailed pretty much every American team asking for a spot. But I was fortunate and soon found myself on a plane, getting nervous of what to expect racing in the US.

From all reports of Aussies racing in US teams, it was going to be hard and fast. Would I survive? How would the racing compare to Australian racing? Would I be strong enough? Ballsy enough? Experienced enough to survive?

Sunny team training this morning! @stans_veloclassic #pocheads #squinty

A photo posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

Well I have survived so far. As I write this, I’m midway through racing Tulsa Tough, three days of criteriums in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All my fears and worries aside, I’ve survived racing and it’s been one of the most hard and fun racing experiences I’ve had yet.

Here are the main differences I’ve encountered when it comes to Aussie racing and US racing.

Crits: Are a big thing here. A really big thing. Lots of people only race crits. In Australia, we do have a lot of crits as part of the National Road Series tours/stage races, but here there are lots of teams and riders, who only race crits. In Australia, most teams would race everything, not just confined to one style of racing.

Primes: Something we don’t really have in Australia. Primes are prize money bonuses that are made available at random points in the race, these can vary from $100 USD to $1000 USD or more. They change the dynamic of racing, like sprint points do. The more frequent the primes become available, the faster and more surge-y the race gets because everyone is going for them.

Prize money: The prize money seems huge here, and at Tulsa Tough, it pays down to 25th position!

The spectating crowds: Crowds are massive and the vibe here is amazing. Thousands of people line the streets to watch and cheer and they don’t necessarily follow cycling. The crowds are like a giant street party! Something that I’ve only experienced in Australia racing at the Santos Women’s Tour in Adelaide.

Post men’s Pro race feed zone. #welcometotheparty #toughlove #bikesandbeers @tulsa_tough

A video posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

Race numbers: the race numbers we pin on here are huge. They fill my entire back, unlike the Aussie ones, which are much smaller.

T minus 1 hour to kick off, race two of Tulsa Tough. #toughlove #14 #amiralove

A photo posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

Rice cakes: my preferred pre-race snack, as many of you would know, are different. They’re much thicker, not as uniform in shape and taste a little more salty than my favourite Aussie race cakes…but who’s complaining? I’ve found them and I’m currently smothering them with peanut butter and honey.

Fuelling for @tulsa_tough with @vegemite. #toughlove #ricecakes

A photo posted by Verita Stewart (@lowercasev) on

Racing: Maybe because of the primes, maybe because of the talent, but racing here has been hard, fast and the women are fearless. The women here have so much crit racing experience and I’m learning heaps at an average pace of over 40km/hr! I’m pretty happy to be able to hold on and finish Top 20 so far.

We race in the evening: The race times have been hard to adjust to, racing at 7 or 8 p.m. here in Tulsa. It does allow for a morning coffee shop pedal and relaxed day, but we don’t get to bed until 1:30 a.m.! In Australia, we wouldn’t generally race that late in the evening.

Skinsuits: They aren’t reserved for Sunday or time trials here! They’re the preferred crit outfit. I love it. Australia needs to catch on.

For those of you that have raced in both Australian and US – what were the biggest differences that jumped out at you? What would you like to know about my experience racing in the States? Ask me in the comments below!

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got one more day racing at Tulsa Tough, then I’m off on a road trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to race Tour of America’s Dairylands.

Until next week, ride safe!

About the author

The tagline to Verita Stewart’s personal blog reads: “Not a professional cyclist, yet” and it’s the “yet” that’s most telling. Verita is a Melbourne-based cyclist riding for Specialized Securitor. New to the sport, she’s quickly made the jump from commuting to recreational riding to racing.

She now juggles full-time work with full-time NRS racing and hopes to make the leap to the big-leagues sometime soon. Verita is full of stories and smiles and snark – and will bring all three to you on Ella. Follow Verita on twitter and instagram and strava.

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