Words by Kyle von Hoetzendorff
“It’s a dry heat.”
While walking around Boise (Boy-See not Boy-Zee) this is all I can think. I am 9 hours early for the Boise Twilight Crit. I have a backpack and a bag of clothes. It is close to 100 degrees. I will spend my time alternating between drinking ice-cold coffee and ice-cold beer until the lot of pavement pugilists begin their reckless dervish around the city’s inner sanctum. I am alone and bored in high summer Boise, just days past our nation’s birthday.
“It’s a sledgehammer.”
There is a certain feeing of distance when walking around Boise, a distance between spaces, between people. Things happen out of arm’s reach, removed and solitary, each action alone soiled in its results. Maybe that’s why the people of Boise, one of the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest, behave nothing like their evergreen-cloistered brethren. There is space here, breathing room, vacant distance is readily preserved and the awareness of such vast and un-reflected environment tempers and diffuses the harried nervousness found in the denizens of Cascadia’s coniferous shores. It is too hot here to bother about much.
“How much you want to bet I can through a football over those mountains?”
Criteriums are most simply a spectacle in the vein of Rome’s Circus Maximus, Charlemagne’s jousting knights, Don King’s pugilists, these are racers with honed skill and inured bravado, the fans with their base understanding, and the course with its advantages and pitfalls. Each course presents the riders with a different set of challenges, and what can seem a pedestrian layout to the novice can to the skilled and knowing be both challenging and cunning. Having the totality of a day to kill, I circumvented the Boise Twilight Criterium course, more or less an oval with very little in the way of elevation gain and loss. This would be a race of corners, where, as Pete Morris would put it, “you try to go as fast as you can with the least amount of energy.” A course with a shape as simple as an oval a course can become a battleground ripe with tactics and cunning . Think of a chessboard; there is no mouse trap, no shocking missteps in bone removal, no hotels on Boardwalk, it’s simple, it’s a blocked layout upon which players make almost infinite gambits and schemes. Here in the midst of downtown Boise, they have devised the cycling equivalent to a chessboard, a course as sparse and simple as an oval.
A brief note on the oval, culled from the Internet:
“An oval (from Latin ovum, “egg”) is a closed curve in a plane which “loosely” resembles the outline of an egg. The term is not very specific, but in some areas (projective geometry, technical drawing, etc.) it is given a more precise definition, which may include either one or two axes of symmetry. In common English, the term is used in a broader sense: any shape which reminds one of an egg.
“The origin of the use of “love” for zero is also disputed. It is possible that it derives from the French expression for “the egg” (l’œuf) because an egg looks like the number zero. This is similar to the origin of the term “duck” in cricket, supposedly from “duck’s egg”, referring to a batsman who has been called out without completing a run. One possibility comes from the Dutch expression iets voor lof doen, which means to do something for praise, implying no monetary stakes. Another theory on the origins of the use of “love” comes from the acceptance that, at the start of any match, when scores are at zero, players still have “love for each other”.
“We both know that I’m training to become a cage fighter.”
In America we have a time-honored tradition of going left in our races. This is not a political statement or a decision drawn from a deeper meaning—it’s simply a result of the driver’s location in the car. Going left gives drivers a whole lot more crumple zone to work with when becoming the victim of centrifugal force, slamming into the wall on the outside corner of turns, a common catastrophe at oval races.
Cycling though, is a decidedly European form of racing. Some of you may note that at the turn of the last century, Velodrome racing was very popular in the US. Good job. It wasn’t until the advent of the grand tours when road cycling was combined with the socio-geographic conduits of Europe—that were the result of the continent’s pre-automobile transportation—that the sport of cycling really found its foothold. Its fantastic growth through the 20th century parallels the development of pure-speed auto racing: F1, GT, etc.
While NASCAR is recognizably American, with an outward display of conservatism defined through strictly delineated and outwardly plebeian and conservative rules that all but challenge car builders to bend and flex them to the point of breaking. European car racing by-and-large eschews pretense in its quest for pure racing, pure speed. Here then is our model for road cycling, pure speed. What I am getting at is that American road racers stand on a history greater, wider, and more fundamental then that of our stock car titans. American road racers can turn right! And they did, turn after turn after turn during the Boise Twilight Criterium.
“Nunchuck skills… bowhunting skills… computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!”
Boise is the home of Bodybuilding.com and the city in which the artist Mathew Barney attended high school. It doesn’t take a CIA statistician to understand there is a connection here. Boise is a fit town. As I understand it, the average temperature hovers in the 70s and even on the cold days the sun still comes out to play. It’s no wonder that an Internet fitness phenomenon and a cinematic investigation into the pure potentiality of the yet unaware sexual energy (see the Cremaster cycle) stemmed from this full spectrum hotbed of athleticism and passionate ardor. Go visit and breathe in, the air is laden with it.
“Give me some of your tots!”
Contrary to popular belief, potatoes in Boise are no more common than in any other place I have had the chance to visit. By this I mean that they are to be found strictly in grocery stores and restaurants. They do not line the streets as dirty carbohydrate nuggets begging to be eaten, their sickly dead eyes following your every move. Potatoes are not something that citizens carry around with them as talisman. Don’t believe the lies, ladies and gentlemen, Boise is not the potato wonderland that the Idaho travel and commerce associations have long expressed.
“You think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad boys? Forget about it.”
Boise is ranked as the #1 city for Men’s Health by Men’s Health Magazine in its 2013 annual edition of Best and Worst cities for Men’s Health. Women’s Health declined to comment.