A world-class cycling event is rolling into Tulsa this weekend, June 8, 9 and 10. It's the seventh annual Saint Francis Tulsa Tough, and over time it's become one of the best events of its kind in the nation.
From the exciting, fast paced criteriums held downtown and at Riverparks to the free Tulsa -Townie family ride, Tulsa Tough is fun to watch and take part in.
The event is growing in popularity each year. Last year, it attracted 30,000 spectators, a 300 percent increase since 2006. And it draws professional cyclists from 28 states and from overseas.
"I have riders from Argentina, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia. And they're just here to race this event," said Shawn Brett of Saint Francis Tulsa Tough.
Executive Director Malcolm McCollam says many of those racers look forward to the event and the shot at the $116,000 purse.
"Three days of the year we go to Tulsa Tough. The other 362 days of the year we train for Tulsa Tough," McCollam said.
Watch the pros in three closed-course criteriums Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The action kicks off Friday night at 6:15 in the Blue Dome entertainment district. Races continue at 11 .am. Saturday in the Brady Arts district and move to River Parks on Sunday starting at 8:40 a.m.
"It's fantastic. It really is. It shows off our city, and most of all it shows off the hospitality of our city," Brett said.
This year, with several construction projects in the Brady District, organizers have worked closely with construction crews, who will suspend their work Friday.
"We haven't had to make any changes to the courses. We're going to be down there racing in the Brady District, and the Manhattan guys are going to have it all ready for us," Malcolm McCollam said.
Crews will also smooth out a few rough places on the streets – something that's done ever year – and that other safety precautions.
"Extra hay bales, on all the posts and everything, but we'll go ahead and wash down the streets and push the construction barricades back and we'll be ready to race," said Shawn Brett of Tulsa Tough.
You don't have to be a licensed rider to participate in the timed and untimed road rides Saturday and Sunday. You do need to register before race day at the Tulsa Tough website.
The Tulsa Townie ride Sunday is free for the whole family. There will also be kids activities and a street festival all weekend long.
The Tulsa Tough Festival is a family-friendly event with local vendors, exhibitors and artisans. It begins at 5 p.m. Friday at the northeast corner of East Second Street and Elgin Avenue. On Saturday, the festival starts at 11 a.m. on North Main between Brady Street and Cameron Street. Then it moves to Houston Avenue and Riverside Drive for a 9 a.m. Sunday start.
New this year is the GranFondo Celebrazione at the Riverview Festival area, Riverside Drive and Galveston Avenue. All GranFondo (road rides Saturday and Sunday) riders will be treated to food, drinks and a festival.