Six months ago Sam Bassetti was at a crossroads, and the racing season that lay ahead for him was mired in uncertainty.
Off his bike for two months following a knee injury and living in the aftermath of the wildfires that devastated his home city of Santa Rosa, California, the 28-year old was unsure of how many races he’d ride in in 2019, or if he’d compete in any at all.
It’s why when Bassetti separated himself from the pack and crossed the finish line in Sunday’s Men’s Pro 1 River Parks Criterium, he threw his arms up in the air and let go an especially resounding scream that caught many nearby onlookers off-guard.
“I had a really hard offseason,” Bassetti said. “I really didn’t know when I’d be able to race again. It’s incredible to come back like this.”
Bassetti claimed the 2019 Saint Francis Tulsa Tough Men’s Pro Omnium with his first-place finish Sunday afternoon to earn his first title win in Tulsa in three appearances. The Californian took second Friday at Blue Dome and Saturday at the Tulsa Arts District before finishing off his prolific weekend in Tulsa with the emphatic win on Riverside Drive.
“To watch everything come together in a single moment,” Bassetti said. “It was really powerful.”
Reigning back-to-back national champion Justin Williams finished in second place, with Maryland’s Scott McGill in third.
Following the weekend champion in Sunday’s race were Los Angeles’ Sean McElroy and Tanner Ward of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Entering Sunday’s race, Bassetti trailed Williams by eight points in the overall, forcing the Californian to attack the course around River Parks aggressively.
Coming at the course strong paid off. When Williams fell off the pace, Bassetti was left alone in first, taking home the victory. Williams finished 15th in Sunday’s race.
“I really wanted to get out there today and put some pressure on Justin,” Bassetti said. “He’s faster than me, but I knew if I could execute that plan, it would just be a matter of finishing it off.”
Wire-to-wire leader Samantha Schneider claimed the Omnium title in the Women’s Pro 1/2. The racer from West Allis, Wisconsin, gained a lead she’d never give up Friday night with a victory in the Blue Dome District and followed with a third-place finish in the Arts District before a 14th place finish Sunday.
The win marks Schneider’s third Tulsa Tough Omnium title, and while she seemingly cruised to the overall win, the 29-year old felt that Sunday was the most stressful race of the weekend.
“The top-four in the overall were pretty tight for a lot of the race and so I had to be really careful and on my game,” Schneider said. “But I can rest easy now.”
On again finding success in Tulsa, Schneider pointed to the substantial field of racers and the challenging courses for bringing out her best.
“It’s just full-gas every day and I love it,” she said. “The intensity is amazing. I love the atmosphere. I love the crowds. I love Tulsa.”
Australia’s Peta Mullens finished behind Schneider in second place in the Omnium. Schneider’s younger sister, Skylar, took third.
Emily Roper claimed first place in Sunday’s Criterium followed by fellow Australians Justine Barrow in second place and Beck Wiasak in third.
In the Men’s Cat III, the three-day saga between Tim Smith and Luke Feuerhelm came to an entertaining close with Smith, the racer from St. Louis, bolting ahead at the finish to claim the weekend’s Omnium crown in the event. The two riders had ridden neck-and-neck well ahead of the pack in each of the event’s three criterium, Feurehelm (Le Mars, Iowa) earning the win in the Blue Dome District Friday evening and Smith picking up the victory in the Tulsa Arts District on Saturday afternoon, and the two entered Sunday’s finale tied on points.
As the pair made their final run through Crybaby Hill and charged toward the finish line, Smith made a final attack to shoot ahead for the win, earning his first Omnium victory in his third appearance in Tulsa.
“We raced really tight and I was just thinking to myself, ‘Don’t let him go’,” Smith said. “I cut the closer just a little bit closer and once you’ve got that gap it’s hard for anyone to overcome that.”
A fourth-place finish Sunday afternoon was good enough for Rob Sandusky to claim the Men’s Cat 1/2 Omnium title for the weekend. The racer from Frisco, Texas, positioned himself well from the outset in Tulsa with a second-place finish in Friday evening’s criterium and followed it up placing in the top 15 Saturday in the Tulsa Arts District.
Denver’s David Coats-Balseux finished in second place for the weekend with Dallas’ David Erwin coming in behind him in third.
Tulsa’s Chris Drummond, riding for Soundpony, finished in third place in Sunday’s criterium.