Twilight Criterium: Move to Boise puts cyclist on right path

McGrath hopes to defend Criterium win, then take aim at Olympics © 2013 Idaho StatesmanJuly 12, 2013 

Kristin McGrath was a bit of a surprise winner at last year’s Twilight Criterium, but she won’t be a dark horse this year as she guns for a repeat win in the race through the streets of Downtown Boise.

DARIN OSWALD — Statesman file photo


    11 a.m.: 9th Street southbound from Main will be closed

    1 p.m.: Official downtown road closures

    1 p.m.: Kids' Ride registration and autograph session with Boise's two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong (booth on Main Street between 9th and 10th)

    2 p.m.: Kids' Ride with Kristin Armstrong

    3:15 p.m.: Cat 4/5 race

    4:15 p.m.: Masters 40-plus (1/2/3) and men 3

    5:15 p.m.: Women 2/3/4

    6 p.m.: Men 1/2/3

    6:50 p.m.: Opening Ceremony

    7 p.m.: Women's pro race

    8:15 p.m.: Men's pro race

    10 p.m.: Awards ceremony

    Midnight: All roads open once equipment is cleared

    RACE COURSEStart/finish: 9th Street, just south of Main

    The loop: Riders turn right on Grove, right on 10th, right on Bannock and right on 9th. Number of laps depends on the race.


Kristin McGrath took a chance by moving to Boise in December 2011 - a decision that is paying off now and could continue all the way to Rio.

McGrath, 30, who hopes to defend her first-place finish in Saturday's Twilight Criterium, finished second in the time trial at the USA Cycling National Championships on May 25 in Chattanooga, Tenn., and fourth in the road race two days later.

She came to Boise to work with her coach, two-time Olympic gold medalist Kristin Armstrong, and has her sights on the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

"I'm definitely looking at that, working toward that - I think the progression I'm making could make that realistic," McGrath said. "Making steps toward a dream like that is a pretty cool thing. I have to pinch myself once in a while."

Though she considered herself a "decent" time-trial competitor while living in Durango, Colo., McGrath's move to Boise came as Armstrong was preparing for last summer's London Games, where she won a second straight gold medal in the time trial.

"The biggest thing was being able to train with her, learn from her," McGrath said. "Maybe I pushed her on one or two of those training days."

Ask Armstrong, and McGrath probably pushed more than on a rare occasion. Boise has proven to be a good fit, enabling her to train on roads in the foothills, hop on her mountain bike and ride local trails, or frequent the Greenbelt on some lighter training days.

"She's definitely embraced Boise," Armstrong said.

McGrath appreciates the variety of riding options in Boise, adding that the city has afforded her a good balance of off-bike activities as well. Of course, the prime reason to uproot was to pursue a high level of success as a cyclist, and to work with one of the best in her hometown.

McGrath's finish at nationals was a slight surprise, Armstrong said, but was a big step in becoming a threat to make an Olympic squad and compete at a high level at each big event.

"She's really shown what she can do, and what she's capable of," Armstrong said. "Now my question is, can she step it up one more spot?

"She'll need a few more consistent results to be considered a favorite to make the team."

Armstrong said this year has been the first "very consistent year without, knock on wood, any hard crashes, any real injuries" for McGrath.

In December 2009, McGrath was hit by a truck while training, shattering her femur and breaking ribs. That took her off her bike for almost a year, then a 2011 crash injured her shoulder. Last year, a knee injury that was a gradual result of her leg reconstruction took her out about a month.

"I've worked with some good people here that have kept my knee healthy, so that hasn't been a problem since then," McGrath said. "I think it's been a breakthrough for me just to be healthy. I think that's been a major part of what's helped me take a big step."

Looking back at last year's Twilight Criterium victory, McGrath noted it's the sort of race in which she doesn't typically excel, with a sprint finish, as opposed to an individual time trial. Versatility is a strong suit for McGrath, who competed at the University of Tennessee in soccer and swimming. In addition to hoping to be a contender for an Olympic spot in the individual time trial or road race, the team pursuit is a possibility, too.

"She has a lot of potential there as well," Armstrong said. "I don't think she or I or anyone has to make that decision until next year."

Wherever her future lies, McGrath has seen some big results in the past year for the years of work that preceded it, and that only pushes her harder.

"It's great to see it finally paying off a bit," McGrath said. "Now, just have to keep pushing and try to get to that next level."

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