By Steve Medcroft
"I'm generally good, except my backside is a little raw," is all Australian Olympian and former Cross Country National Champion Sid Taberlay (Specialized) can say three days after a bizarre training accident at the Schweitzer Mountain, Idaho NORBA cross country race. Taberlay collided with a full-grown wild bear while riding his road bike around the resort's exposition area.
"I headed down the hill from the tech site on my road bike early Friday morning (July 15)," he explains. "I was moving pretty quick, trying to get my legs warmed up. About a mile down the hill, around a right hand corner, there was a bear running across the road from left to right.
"I was moving too quick to make it past him on the outside, so I tightened my line and hit the brakes." The bear, he says, was so focused on crossing the road to a spot directly in Taberlay's trajectory, it never even slowed to acknowledge the speeding rider.
"The bear went straight through me," he added. "I went over his back. My bike went flying over my head. I'm not exactly sure how I landed; it all happened so fast. I smashed my helmet, lost a lot of skin on my backside and a little on my back and left elbow."
Taberlay says the bear didn't make a sound during the encounter and all the rider could hope as he scrambled to his feet was that the bear hadn't decided to come back and confront him.
"I got up and the bear was gone."
As for the exact type of bear Taberlay hit, there are two candidates; although both the American Black Bear and the Brown Bear (also known as the Grizzly) look similar. In fact, the only real difference between the two is that Grizzlies have humped shoulders and slightly shaggier fur. Could Taberlay tell what kind of bear he stumbled across? "No way," he says "It all happened too fast. All I know is that on four paws, it was about the height of my bike."
Taberlay says he hopes the run-in was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. "I've never seen a bear before. I never want to see one again. I'm from Tasmania; the worst things we ever have to worry about there are snakes." And that's the way he likes it.
The Australian recovered from his crash enough by Saturday's cross country race to place 10th, seven minutes off the winner. From Schweitzer, Taberlay heads to the Aspen, Colorado NORBA and then home for three weeks before returning to the States to finish off the NORBA series.