BOISE, Idaho (VN) — If you had to pin race director Mike Cooley down for his single favorite race memory in his years as race director of the Exergy Twilight Criterium in Boise, he’d have to go back to 2001.
“The one that excites me the most is the year that out of the blue Chris Horner and Kirk Willett drove over from Bend, Oregon,” said Cooley. “Horner apparently was broke and Willett said, ‘Hey, I know of this criterium over in Boise.’ And they drove over and didn’t tell anyone they were going to ride, showed up at registration, and won the race.
“He took $3,000 home, which I’m sure today doesn’t mean a whole lot to him, but back then that was pretty exciting to have him come to our event.”
Cooley has seen a fair amount of high-profile riders pass through his event since 1987, the year he helped get the race off the ground. And this year, despite the other events that have crowded in on the calendar, he’s delighted to be hosting riders like UnitedHealthcare’s Rory Sutherland for the first time. Sutherland will be at the Boise race in support of crit veteran Hilton Clarke, who has won here before.
“It’s not (Sutherland’s) specialty, but it’s going to be fun to have those guys here to watch,” said Cooley.
This year Boise also welcomes back a pro women’s field, offering the same amount of prize money as the men’s field.
“We’ve not had a ladies’ race for four years. Participation on their side started to diminish and then we didn’t have the budget to allow us to add their race to the NRC,” said Cooley.
“This year we decided to commit the extra dollars, and the women kept on telling us that if we got back on the calendar they would show up. Registration closed online at noon today and we were just over 40 (riders), which was my goal. And since then I’ve been getting e-mails from people who missed the registration, so I think we’ll comfortably be somewhere right around 50, which will be tremendously satisfying.”
And while Cooley has lost some of the men’s field to BC Superweek, his race delivers points both on the National Criterium Calendar front and in the USA CRITS Championships series where Luke Keough (Team Mountain Khakis-SmartStop) has a four-point lead over Oscar Clark (UnitedHealthcare of GA-The 706 Project).
Clark had led the series since mid-April following the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, North Carolina, but lost his margin on Keough during Cincinnati’s Hyde Park Blast, where both contenders were involved in a large crash. Keough walked away with a broken wrist, but having edged out Clark in the field sprint, also took the orange jersey of the overall USA CRITS leader.
When the two met again at last week’s Iron Hill Twilight Criterium in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Clark was unable to take back the top step on the podium.
“I was racing by myself there,” Clark said after arriving in Boise. “And Luke was kind of an unknown because of his wrist. But he seemed to handle (the injury) just fine and his team did a good job of marking me out of the breakaway.”
Clark wasn’t able to get any points back during Iron Hill and says it will be tough to take back the lead from Keough during the two remaining events on the USA CRITS calendar.
“It’s going to be hard for me to do it, but I’ll have to look for an opportunity to get some points back,” he said. “It’s not out of the question. I’m not totally out of the picture yet.”