Two Oklahoma Amateur Radio clubs got together over the June 13-14 weekend to support communication for the Saint Francis Tulsa Tough cycling event, with some 1400 riders registered. More than 20 volunteers from the Tulsa Amateur Radio Club (TARC) and the Tulsa Repeater Organization (TRO) carried out radio operations to support logistics and rider safety over the 2-day competition. Marking its 10th anniversary this year, the Tulsa Tough serves, in part, as a public health-awareness campaign of Saint Francis Hospital.
Road events range up to 110 miles in a loop circuit that begins in the center of Tulsa and covers four counties in two different rides. Among other things, hams help to recover riders who are unable to complete the course. At the command post, net control operators use ham radio to coordinate support activities ensuring rider safety.
Serving as the backbone for radio operations was TARC’s large, regionally linked UHF system. Complementing that was TRO’s VHF system, with remote receivers to serve the logistics net of operators stationed at rest stops along the route. These operators monitor and report on rider status and supplies as well as any medical information from the on-scene nurse. TRO also provided a smaller, linked UHF system, on the second day of the event to cover areas at points most distant from Tulsa, in eastern Osage County.
In the months leading up to the event, Tulsa County ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator and TARC President Bart Pickens, N5TWB, serves as the primary Amateur Radio interface with event organizers. This included recruiting volunteers, establishing an operations plan, arranging for radio equipment and antennas to outfit vehicles on loan from a local dealership and equipped with bicycle racks.
The Safety and SAG recovery ham operators responded to the usual reports of mechanical and tire troubles, supplying tubes that could put riders back on the road, or transporting them to rest stops, where further mechanical assistance was available. The worst injury reported involved a broken wrist, but many riders suffered the effects of Oklahoma’s heat and humidity. The ham radio volunteers also kept an eye on a developing weather event affecting the end of the ride with heavy rain, lightning, and wind.
Net control was on the air for 10 hours each day, operating from a dealer-donated motor home and using a military-surplus push-up fiberglass mast to mount antennas for voice and data. Digital Mobile Radio was also used on an experimental basis to support a premium ride for experienced cyclists who wanted to attempt completing the 100+ mile course in less than 5 hours for men or 5:40 for women. — Thanks to Bart Pickens, N5TWB, and Oklahoma SEC Mark Conklin, N7XYO