Kristin Armstrong to bring elite cycling race to Boise area, develop next Olympians

The HP Women’s Challenge brought elite cyclists to Idaho for 19 years for a multi-stage race.

If it had only lasted 18 years, Boise’s Kristin Armstrong probably wouldn’t have any of her three gold medals. She signed with the T-Mobile racing team based on her performance as a local rider in the 2002 Women’s Challenge — the event’s final year.

“If it wasn’t for that race coming to my hometown, I would not have accomplished what I did because I would not have had that opportunity,” Armstrong said. “I want to create opportunities for that next, hopefully, Olympic champion in America.”

Armstrong, who won gold medals in the women’s cycling time trial at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics, announced Thursday that she’s bringing an elite time trial race to the Boise area this summer.

She’ll host the inaugural Chrono Kristin Armstrong on July 13 — the opening event in a three-day weekend of cycling racing, including the 32nd annual Twilight Criterium.

The time trial will be sanctioned by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for sports cycling, and feature $35,000 in prize money split equally between men and women. A limited field of amateurs will get to race the course before the pros.

This is the only standalone, UCI-sponsored time trial for men and women scheduled in North America this year, Race Director Mike Cooley said. There is one women-only race in Canada.

Armstrong, who is committed to her “third retirement,” won’t be riding in the event.

The Chrono, through the sponsorship of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, is paying expenses to bring some of the world’s top female time trial riders to Boise, Cooley said. The top men will be racing in the Tour de France, so the men’s field in Boise primarily will be made up of pros based in the U.S. The Chrono offers valuable UCI points for racers.

“One of the obstacles for women in general, women in sport, is paying their way,” Armstrong said. “... I expect (the field) to be very deep. This field will have a handful of the riders you’ll see in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.”

In this Aug. 1, 2012, file photo, cyclist Kristin Armstrong of the United States competes in the women’s cycling individual time trial at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Stefano Rellandini AP

Armstrong, 44, expects to go to those Olympics as a coach. Last summer, she was hired by USA Cycling as the high performance director. Her job includes helping America’s best cyclists build toward 2020 and identifying the next wave of cycling stars.

“People ask me how I feel about this third retirement — it’s different than all my other ones,” she said. “I truly feel closure. The way I define closure is I’m actually ready to help others.

“... I want to see what I can do in this sport in the next 10 years or more,” she said.

She’s motivated to expand her legacy in the sport beyond just success on the road. The Chrono Kristin Armstrong is a way to give back to the sport and the community.

It’s also a chance to highlight the time trial — where riders race against the clock, starting about 60-90 seconds apart. That was her favorite event.

“I love how focused you have to be,” Armstrong said. “They call it ‘the race of truth.’ It’s the strongest person wins. You have to have the best equipment, you have to have the strongest mind and you have to be the strongest physically. ... I can hone in 100 percent on how can I be the best, point to point.”

The time trial will be held on a 15-mile (23-kilometer) course that begins at Hunter’s Creek Sports Park in Star and ends on the drag strip at Firebird Raceway between Star and Emmett.

The amateur race will begin at 9 a.m. July 13 with the elite women at 10:30 a.m. and the elite men at noon. An awards ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. at JUMP, open to the public.

The Chrono is expected to become an annual event and help attract a better field for the Twilight Criterium, which is facing competition for riders from similar events nationwide. USA Crits also will have a new $100,000 prize pool for the top riders in a series of 11 criterium events across the country, including Boise.

The Twilight Criterium schedule on July 14 begins with the Kids Ride with Kristin Armstrong at 1 p.m.. The women’s pro race is at 7 p.m. and the men’s pro race is at 8:15 p.m.

The Chicken Dinner Road Race will follow on July 15, beginning at 9 a.m. The race through the Snake River Valley will be contested on a 21-kilometer loop to allow for varying distances by category. The race was moved to the same weekend as the time trial and Criterium as an additional incentive for top riders to come to Boise. At least some of the pro cyclists are expected to compete in all three events.

Registration for all events is open at bikereg.com.

Chadd Cripe: 208-377-6398, @chaddcripe