Liking Biking

Linda Burton posting from Boise, Idaho – Boise is for bicycles. And not just during the ExergyTWENTY12 event that’s bringing world-class cyclists into town this week. Ordinary folks are out there every day, on the streets and on the pathways, going ordinary places on their bikes. Like Ed, the retiree who volunteers at the State Capitol. “I ride my bike almost everywhere I go. I can hardly stand getting in a car anymore,” he said. He figures he rides about 200 miles a week. And like Terry, a part of the American Heritage Trolley Tour I took. Standing by the map on the back of my car, Terry pointed out the route he and his daughter took in the summer of 1992 when they biked across the USA. Daughter Lyalka was 14, Dad Terry was 44. They departed from Florence, Oregon and arrived in Long Island, New York 43 days later, Pacific to Atlantic. “People made a fuss over her,” Terry told me. “Bicycling across the country at 14. They should have been making a fuss over me. I was doing it at 44!” When I asked how they trained for the trip, he said they didn’t; they were already bike riders, so they just went. “You don’t have to be an athlete to do something like that,” he said.

Or, you can be an athlete, and a professional, like Boisean Kristin Armstrong, leader of the Exergy TWENTY12 Team, who brought home Olympic Gold from Beijing in 2008, and is aiming for London this year. How she got into cycling is a rather unusual story.

Kristin was a swimmer; a Junior Olympian by age 17. She excelled as a triathlete until she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at age 27. No more running at an elite level, she was told, but cycling was good therapy. Now 38, she is considered one of the most accomplished American cyclists of all time (no relation to Lance). She lives in Boise with husband Joe Savola and son Lucas, age 2; she took a break from cycling when Lucas was born; but now she’s back.

Leader of Team Exergy TWENTY12, she has set her sights on a second Olympic Gold medal this year. And part of that “road to London” is happening in Boise this week. It’s the only 2.1 race for women in North America in 2012, on par with the most prestigious and competitive races in the world. It’s a last chance for earning international ranking points crucial in qualifying for the upcoming London Olympic Games. And there is a $100,000 purse, on top of that.

Over 100 athletes representing 18 countries are here; besides Kristin and her two rivals Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens (all three competing for two spots on the US Time Trial team) are Germany’s six-time champion Daniela Glass, and current road-race champion Ina-Yoko Teutenberg; Italy’s current road world champion Giorgia Bronzini ; Switzerland’s 2011 national road champion Pascale Schnider; Britian’s 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the road race Nicole Cooke; Australia’s national road race champion Alexis Rhodes; Sweden’s national time trial champion Emilia Fahlin; Australia’s three-time national time trial champion Shara Gillow; and, as they say in the press releases, many more.

Spectators are welcome at all events – Friday’s road race in Nampa, Saturday’s individual time trial in Kuna, Sunday’s 59.7-mile road race from Garden City to Idaho City, Monday’s final 46.7-mile road race looping through the Boise foothills from and to Hyde Park; and tonight’s kickoff, the Prologue, a time trial from Julia Davis Park to the Boise Depot and back. Capitol Boulevard was closed and everyone was encouraged to “bring cowbells or anything to bang on” for some real-life Boise liking-biking cheer.

It was quite a thrilling sight, standing at the turning point on the rose-covered Boise Depot hill; overlooking the city, the media vans, the traffic-directing police, the cowbell-clanging crowd, and the riders making their turn with camera crews on scooters right behind, recording every move. Most everyone, I noticed, rode their bike to the event.

Host cities for the Exergy Tour

About Team ExergyTWENTY12

About Exergy Development Group

 Post Race Press Release

Kristin Armstrong, team leader of Exergy Twenty12 professional cycling team and pre-race favorite, crashed at the halfway point of the Prologue course in the 180-degree turn just beyond the Boise Train Depot. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist finished the race in obvious pain, and holding her left shoulder, just eight seconds behind winner Tara Whitten of Canada, who finished at 4:09.64.

According to Jim Johnston, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon of St. Luke’s Sports Medicine, Armstrong has a mid-shaft clavicle fracture. Surgery is scheduled for Friday morning forcing Armstrong to withdraw from competition. The Exergy Twenty12 team issued a statement saying a swift recovery is expected, and she plans to be back on her trainer within a few days to continue her pursuit of another Olympic gold medal.