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Tour de Dirt Tidbits

09 October 2005

The most recent race in Oklahoma’s Tour de Dirt series, “The Sooner Stampede” went off without a hitch. The event, hosted at Lake Thunderbird’s Clearbay Marina, provided no new revelations; Raymond Hall, and Becky Gross won the Expert/Pro categories.

This spring, Hall successfully dominated the 2005 Texas Mountain Bike Championship Series. Before that he won the 2004 Oklahoma Cyclocross Series. The man is clearly on a roll as he looks to be the first Oklahoman (or person for that matter) to take both the Oklahoma and Texas mountain bike titles.

At the Sooner Stampede, Hall was well ahead of everyone. As Hall neared the finish, Jason Humphrey could be seen streaking towards the finish line at supersonic speeds trying to get close, while Forrest Smith, 3rd, seemed to have already “shut’r” down”. Who can blame him? It’s been a long season, in fact some say too long. It could be said that the series time line favors only a few folks. With the exception of January, February, and December, the series drags on for most of the year. There is a summer break; however, that break happens during the peak of summer two wheeled activity. Perhaps Oklahoma could benefit from both a fall and spring series. The spring series could be designed to facilitate the crowning of our state champion. With the serious business taken care of earlier in the year a fall series could provide a friendlier yet competitive venue for riders of all abilities. Perhaps “open” rides could be held, much like the Bluff Creek Dirt Crit, where beginners and experts may duke it out just for fun.

That could prove especially helpful in the women’s categories. Becky Gross remains virtually unchallenged when she races in Oklahoma. Clearly at NORBA NCS races the fit gal has her hands full, yet for some unknown reason, none of Oklahoma’s other Velo-Gals want to come play in the dirt with Becky. At the Stampede, it wasn’t until the sport women started that she had any femmes challenge her. Just for fun, Nancy Jones chased her a bit, even though Becky had already been on the course for some time. As Becky neared the finish she wrecked while going over a pile of logs. Becky ended the event laying in the makeshift aid tent with a broken nose and abrasions to her face. Winning the series for her should only be a matter of punching the time clock. It’s as if she’s been awarded the championship by default since no one appears to want to compete in her category. I presume that much like Shonny Vanlandingham, most Oklahoma women that could compete at that level are caught up in other sports or have yet to develop their riding capabilities to her level. Whether or not that demographic will get whiff of the cycling opportunities available to them in Oklahoma remains to be seen.

Earlier this season, Texan Billy Kurtz of Orthopedic Store racing came close to upsetting Hall’s overall victory. Kurtz lost the Texas title to Hall by a mere four points. Meanwhile, back in Oklahoma Forrest Smith was getting ready to rumble with Hall. At Elk City he successfully defended his title against the likes of Jacob Lasley who did not finish, and Kurtz’s Texas team-mate Brian Kendall who came in second, The next three races would see the eight time consecutive state champion falter with bad form, mechanicals, and wrecked bikes; all which prevented Smith from crossing the line for any points at Zink Hopper, Turkey Mountain, and Red Dirt Rendezvous. While Smith has struggled, Hall has placed first in every Tour de Dirt race he’s competed in thus far. Barring an accident Raymond Hall appears to have locked up the series and become the first rider in eight years to take the overall series title from Forrest Smith.

In news unrelated to the Tour de Dirt, a huge congratulations to Ryan Delong as the number one ranked downhill racer in the entire state of Oklahoma. He is also the ONLY ranked NORBA downhill racer in the state. When it comes to downhill (DH) and freeriding (FR), few seem to take the bait. There was a DH race series this year but it remains to be seen how, when, or if that part of our regional biking tribe will be able to do anything about the scheduling conflicts with the Tour de Dirt. With scheduling conflicts removed, the series could garner more participation from Tour de Dirt riders and ultimately help qualify more riders to go to nationals at the end of the year. Hopefully, with the efforts of those already involved, that will happen. Given the fact that Oklahoma’s largest population area has predominately XC type trails and terrain, there is perhaps little time, interest or money to build free ride (FR) obstacles or downhill (DH) courses in the OKC area. Compounding that is the apparent lack of availability of public land with terrain that would be challenging enough for a full on DH bike. That still hasn’t stopped Steve Mullen, who is facilitating the growth of FR/DH through his web site and public forum at Tulsa Freeriders dot-com. On that forum FormulaX (a.k.a. Steve Mullen), stated that permission had been granted by YMCA to build FR obstacles on YMCA’s property at Turkey Mountain. Clifton Sisk (a.k.a. Frankenschwinn), an OKC based rider, went on to further state in response to a one list query that, “...there have been discussions with the director of the YMCA and an informal permission has been granted but that is hearsay”. Whatever the case may end up being, godspeed to anyone involved in putting on both the DH race series, and putting up FR obstacles.

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