Meet the women of the Tulsa Tough Divas
The cycling group of 200+ women will soon race through Tulsa.
Heidi Blackmon and Jennifer Donnelly aren’t just friends. They’re members of the 207-strong Tulsa Tough Divas female cycling group. They will soon join 3,000 riders converging on downtown Tulsa and Riverside Drive for the 2019 Saint Francis Tulsa Tough from June 7-9.
Three days of criterium races and Gran Fondos — non-competitive timed rides around Green Country averaging 30 to 100 miles in length — conclude with Sunday’s grueling trek up the infamous “Cry Baby Hill” on West Galveston Street from Riverside Drive to South Denver Avenue.
After completing Tulsa Tough, the women both say they feel exhausted and exhilarated. “For many ladies, it is a huge accomplishment,” Blackmon says. “I mostly feel proud of the ladies I helped and encouraged.”
When Carol Bush, Malcolm McCollum and Shawn Brett created the Tulsa Tough Divas in 2012, it was “to get more women to ride in the Gran Fondos,” recalls cyclist Heidi Blackmon. “They looked at the number of women who would run a marathon and said, ‘Why can’t we help ladies on bikes?’”
And so, the Tulsa Tough Divas was formed. The group now includes teenagers through women in their mid-70s. Its main aim? “Getting women to feel empowered and get fit and healthy,” Blackmon says.
The Divas have been preparing for this year’s Tulsa Tough since mid-March. But they don’t compete. Each woman is encouraged to set a long-distance goal and stick to it.
Divas member Jennifer Donnelly says the group accommodates all skill levels — from women riding a bike for the first time, to those who can ride 100 miles, and everyone in between. “It is the most supportive and welcoming environment for women cyclists I have ever seen,” Donnelly says.
Blackmon and Donnelly joined Tulsa Tough Divas for different reasons. “I was out of shape and looking for a way to get active,” Donnelly says. Six years later, it’s a family affair. “My husband has ridden with me, my son did a Fondo with me. My kids have volunteered registering and cheering.”
Blackmon started as a Tulsa Tough spectator in 2007, then became a Fondo rider. She says, “I love empowering women, watching them be independent and empowered by fixing flats, going out for longer distances and doing it with the support of other women.”
June 7-9 — Saint Francis Tulsa Tough
Downtown Tulsa and surrounding area. For a full schedule of events, visit tulsatough.com.