By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
While there will always be crashes in cycling, rarely do they result in life-altering injuries. However, a few serious injuries this year alone has prompted the creation of a new charitable fund, dubbed the Professional Cycling Catastrophic Injury Fund. It is designed to act as a financial safety net for professional and elite amateur cyclists who suffer career-ending injuries on the bike.
Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball has spearheaded this initiative, organising the charity and bankrolling the endowment. The horrific crash by Fausto Esparza (Tecos-Trek) occurring on the final stage of the Tour of the Gila, leaving him paralyzed.
"That's where this came about," Ball told Cyclingnews. "It broke my heart to read he has two kids and that racing is his only income. That needs to change, riders can be thrown out as easily as last year's trend. I had a motivation to help this guy with some financial and moral support – that grew into doing it for many athletes. So we established the foundation."
The 501(c)3 nonprofit organisation will be funded in part by team clothing sales, but Ball issued a challenge to the rest of the industry to put in their share. "All major league sports have these types of mechanisms for their players – cyclists have none of that. So let's turn to guys like me and the public who enjoy this sport, and companies that make money off these athletes and start giving back."
"I challenge every other cycling organisation, sponsor, and manufacturer – any entity that generates revenue from bicycle racing – to contribute to this fund and support these amazing athletes for the risks they take every day. The fund will create a truly powerful and viable resource that supports our sport and takes care of our athletes – any pro or elite amateur in the world, because those are the ones that take the biggest risks."
While the organisation is still being finalised, including the creation of a web site for donations, Ball said Esparza will be the first beneficiary. "He is going to be our first endowment and I'm really excited about that." While Esparza remains in a similar condition as when he left the hospital, Ball is hoping for more. "There is hope – I know some guys from the motocross world that have had some devastating injuries and have recovered."