It's time to put all the animosity between bicyclists and drivers aside and celebrate one of the best occasions for cars to hand over the road to their two-wheeled friends: the Twilight Criterium.
Each summer, packs of some of the best Lycra-clad road racers from around the world descend on the City of Trees for one of the area's signature events. Fans jam the sidewalks just to watch the competitors whiz by at break-neck speeds, turning corners at angles that make us non-racers a little queasy just watching.
Best of all, this is Boise's event. Not some transplant from elsewhere. It started back in 1987 as a way to get more people interested in the sport of road biking--and, of course, to bring more people to downtown Boise.
Back then, downtown wasn't what it is now. In the mid-1980s, downtown Boise was a ghost town after 5 p.m. There was simply no reason to stay after work. But the criterium, although small at first, gave people a reason to stand in the sometimes-sweltering heat of a July day in Boise.
Now, more than 100 world-class cyclists will come to ride around in a circle in pursuit of the event's $20,000 purse in what has become one of the most well-regarded criteriums in the country. Organizers expect that more than 20,000 fans will line the route on Saturday, July 18.
For its 23rd year, the Twilight Criterium will host riders from top-ranked cycling teams, including Bissell Pro Cycling, Colavita-Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light and Team Type 1. The course begins and ends in front of the Wells Fargo building on the corner of Ninth and Main streets, and riders will cruise south on Ninth Street, west on Grove, north on 10th Street and east on Bannock.
Road closures in downtown will begin phasing in at 11 a.m. in preparation for warm-ups beginning at 2:30 p.m. The first event of the day is the Ride with Kristin Armstrong Kids Event. Sign-up is at 2 p.m. and the Olympic gold medalist will be on hand for autographs. The ride, for kids age 5-10, begins at 3 p.m., and registration is required. It should be done in advance online at boisetwilightcriterium.com. The ride is followed by the Junior Criterium at 3:45 p.m.
Men's category 2-5 and masters races will run from 4-6 p.m., with the official opening ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. Then, the big names hit the road, with the women's pro category starting at 7:10 p.m. and the men's pro category at 8:30 p.m. The criterium is a timed event, with preliminary races lasting between 30 and 45 minutes, plus one lap, and the main even going on for one hour, plus five laps.
It all wraps up with the awards ceremony at 10 p.m.
And while the victors will walk away with fame and glory, it's really the fans who come out ahead in the end. It isn't often that this many athletes of the highest caliber come to your doorstep, all bringing their A games.
Besides, holding your breath as the racers navigate every tight corner is a bit of a workout in itself.