The Alto/SeaSucker Factory Racing team went into Tulsa Tough as the top criterium team in the country, and they certainly did not disappoint! Led by national champion, Daniel Holloway, the team came away with the overall title, two stage victories, a second place, and third overall.
"You just can't become hyped enough before Tulsa Tough. The electricity that flows through this town is enough to bring in the lightning storms that delayed the race," said Holloway about the atmosphere is Tulsa, Oklahoma. Holloway came to Tulsa after an injury prone couple of weeks, nursing an LCL strain that had forced him off the bike for a few days. "I went to work with my Adhesion Breakers and RockSauce to release any and all muscles connected to the outside of my knee. Like any cyclist, my piriformis and IT band were a mess and I did what I could loosen it up. On Thursday I had at least 6 feet of various RockTape pieces layered on my body."
The injured knee would not stop Holloway, nor would it deter his teammates from placing all of their confidence in him. Holloway started the first night's Blue Dome Criterium at the back in order to test his knee, but he didn't stay there for long. "I put in one attack at the 15 minute mark but it came back. For the rest of the race I sat in and watched the team control the race; covering what needed to be covered, resting when needed and working together to stay safe. It was perfect." Jim Stemper and Aldo Ilesic took over the race with a few laps remaining, with Jim keeping the pace as high as possible before Aldo coming through on the last lap to set up Holloway for the final sprint. "He took it from corner one all the way to the last corner and was accelerating the whole time. Going into the last corner he left the inside open for me to carry maximum speed. With one check under the arms at 30 meters to go, I knew I had it," said Holloway about Ilesic's last lap leadout.
The team went into the next night full of confidence, and ready to take on the Brady Arts District criterium. A bit of a wrench was thrown into the plan when the skies opened up and the race was delayed 30 minutes. The wet roads would make for dangerous and unpredictable race, but experience pays off in situations like this and the guys knew exactly what to do. "I went over to the neutral service to dial in air pressure for the race, as the final corner is the key to success on this course and we were expecting more rainfall," said Holloway. A small crash occurred on the third lap, prompting the team to take to the front to stay safe. "At that time I knew it was best to speed things up for a couple laps to see what would happen. A small break formed of 7 or so, and we worked well together for a little while." That break would stay out front for 45 of the 60 minute race, and was surprisingly brought back into the field to set up the second consecutive field sprint. "Jim and Aldo kept me hidden from the wind until the perfect moment. Just after the second to last corner Aldo popped out and turned on the gas. Aldo slid inside to deter anyone from thinking about sneaking under, which left the ideal line for me. I had a good gap right from the start of the sprint and had enough time for the bow and arrow salute that my girlfriend had requested!"
The team went into the final day with two wins and the overall lead, but Cry Baby Hill never plays favorites. The team planned to stay conservative and let the infamous hill tire the field out as much as possible. The team did an incredible job to control the race, but it was tough going for Holloway after two very hard efforts earlier in the weekend. "From the first time up the hill I knew something wasn’t right. My legs were off, my body was off and everything was a struggle from the start. With around 8 laps to go I took some risks, dug deep, and finally got to the front where my teammates were gathering. Once I made it up to Aldo I couldn’t even talk, he asked how I was and all I could do was shake my head. With zero panic or stress he said, 'stay close, I'll take care of you, we can do this,' or at least that's what I heard. From that moment on I didn’t leave his wheel, but through the second to last corner I was done, the legs shut off. I yelled at Aldo to go for it as he looked back and saw the gap I had opened. Ten other guys made it around me before the final turn, but Aldo had a great finish to place second after waiting for me on the hill."
The team's confidence in Holloway kept him going through the final stage, and his 13th place was enough to secure the overall victory at Tulsa Tough, with Ilesic taking the third. In a very long list of wins, this was arguably the most successful weekend to date for Alto/SeaSucker, and the guys show no signs of slowing down any time soon!