The 27th Annual Anderson Banducci Twilight Criterium gets underway this afternoon in downtown Boise. Some 250 cyclists will race at different times throughout the day, starting with a kids ride with two time Olympic gold medal cyclist Kristin Armstrong.
The Twilight Criterium started in 1987 when Mike Cooley and his friends decided bike racing needed to go where the people were.
“Back in the mid 80s the most popular place was on a Saturday night on Main Street,” Cooley remembers. So that’s where the first Twilight race happened. “Nobody really knew what was happening but all the patrons came out of the bars and then it just took off.”
That first twilight race used caution tape to mark the course and Christmas tree lights for backlight. Today, there’s photo finish equipment, an announcer, cycling officials and professional cycling teams. “I have to pinch myself that it’s [the race] still around,” says Cooley
This criterium relies on title sponsors to put the event on. Other sports events count on entry fees to pay the bills. For more than 20 years Cooley says First Security Bank and Wells Fargo remained the title sponsors. “I don’t know how we survived other than I’ve always put it on from just a passion side not a profit side.”
Now, Cooley says the Twilight Criterium is part of Boise’s culture. “People love coming out and bringing their kids out and seeing people from Australia, Europe, South America and Canada race.”
For the first time, Cooley has added a race for beginner and intermediate female cyclists. “We’ve had such a good turnout this year at all the road races for these ladies, I decided we’d offer them a crit and they haven’t let me down.”
So far nearly 24 women have registered from around Idaho, Colorado, Utah and Texas. “It’s going to be, for some of them, their very first criterium,” Cooley explains.
More than six professional women’s teams will compete for a $15,000 purse. That's equal to what the professional men will race for. Nine men’s teams have also signed up.
You can watch the Twilight in downtown Boise. The start and finish is at the intersection of 9th and Main streets. And make sure to check out our guide to crit racing here.