By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
A 24 year-old first-year racer was killed Saturday when a passing truck struck her while competing in the Proctor Cycling Classic in Brimfield, Illinois near Peoria. Beth Kobeszka (XXX Racing-AthletiCo) from Chicago was competing in the women's category 4 road race when she was reportedly bumped into the path of the truck pulling a horse trailer.
Witnesses of the accident reported that riders had crossed the middle yellow line as the pack of about 25 to 30 crested a small hill four miles from the race finish along Brimfield-Jubilee road. The truck was headed in the opposite direction legally as the race was operating under the 'yellow line rule.' The police report said that Kobeszka was bumped into the path of the truck by another racer.
"There had been some girls passing on the left several times and the lead car came back to tell people about the yellow line rule," Katie Haft (Morris Trucking Velo), who was racing in the event, told Cyclingnews. "We came up the crest of the hill and I don't know if people were passing or if they were bumped if while a truck pulling a trailer was coming the other direction."
"I just saw people getting tangled and one woman fell into the side of the trailer and it rolled over her," Haft said.
"A few on the front kept going but a lot of people stopped. People were really unsure of what to do. I stopped for a while and the follow car in back stopped but there was probably nothing I could do."
Kobeszka was transported to a local hospital with multiple injuries and was pronounced dead later the same day.
The police report said that the truck was driven by Thomas S. Milligan, 48, of Quincy, Illinois and that he stopped immediately after the collision.
"Our prayers and thoughts are with the family of the young lady," Milligan told the Peoria Journal Star from his home Sunday. "I've got two daughters and I can't even imagine what they're going through. It was a tragic thing. It's just a shock."
No charges are expected in the case, according to police.
Kobeszka was new to the XXX team but was a part of its women's development squad, headed by Randy Warren, which focused on racing. "She graduated from Northwestern University and was a runner there," said Warren. "She was was relatively new, joining the team this year, but was pretty gung-ho about racing. She was part of the women's development program which means signing agreement to race, and she won the Cobb Park criterium last weekend."
The already scheduled July 2 team meeting has been transformed into a forum for team-mates to deal with the tragedy. "One of our members is also a chaplain and will lead us in grief counseling," said Warren. "We are working with her mum to decide where to have a memorial fund set up. The funeral will be this week."
Warren also said that the team's August criterium in Chicago might also serve as a memorial. "We are thinking of naming the women's race after her."
More information about the memorial can be found on the team's web site: www.xxxracing.org. Cyclingnews extends its condolences to the family and friends.