Former professional cyclist Chase Pinkham died over the weekend in his home state of Utah, according to updated posted Tuesday on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of his 2014 team, InterMountain LiveWell p/b Bountiful Cycles.
"We are deeply saddened today by the loss of likely one of the most talented Utah cyclists – Chase Pinkham passed away last night," the team wrote on its Facebook page. "Not only was he an amazing cyclist, but he had one of the biggest hearts and cared deeply for others. We appreciated the opportunity to get to know him and send our deepest condolences to his family. May the roads of heaven be lined with flowers, smooth pavement, steep climbs, and fast descents for you to enjoy. Your presence will be missed!"
Team spokesman Scott Austin did not immediately respond to requests from Cyclingnews for comment, and circumstances surrounding Pinkham's death have not been forthcoming. But VeloNews.com reported today that family friend Alex Kim said Pinkham died from an accidental overdose after recently being prescribed painkillers following a crash during a race in February.
"He didn't take his own life," Kim told VeloNews. "He was doing well when we saw him Friday and Saturday. This was an accidental overdose.”
The 23-year-old from Salt Lake City posted recently on his own Facebook page that he was seeking treatment for severe depression brought on "by years of dealing with chronic pain from my accident in 2008."
"Dealing with chronic pain, years of medication and depression is something that may make you completely alone and hopeless, even when surrounded by the people that love you," he wrote in the Facebook post dated March 9.
Pinkham started cycling in 2007 and quickly rose through the US junior ranks. But he was struck by a vehicle while training for the Tour l'Abitibi in 2008 and suffered severe injuries, requiring half a dozen reconstructive surgeries to repair the bones in his face.
He missed the rest of the 2008 season but bounced back strong in 2009. He signed with Trek-Livestrong development team in 2010 and moved to Bissell Pro Cycling for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Pinkham had a disappointing season with Jamis-Hagens Berman last year and was not re-signed, returning this season with the domestic elite LiveWell team from Utah.
Pinkham was involved in a crash during February's Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Arizona, breaking his fibula in two places, but he recovered quickly and finished third April 11 in a criterium during the UVU Spring Classic in Utah.
Reaction to Tuesday's news about his death was swift among the domestic cycling community.
Axel Merckx, Pinkham's former director at Trek-Livestrong, wrote on Twitter that he was "absolutely devastated to hear my former rider Chase Pinkham passed away last night. He was such a nice and kind person. You will be missed."
Garmin-Sharp rider Nathan Brown, who rode with Pinkham at Trek-Livestrong, wrote that he was "[d]eeply saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Chase Pinkham."
"I had the honor of racing with him for a year," Brown added. "You will be missed buddy."
Trek Factory Racing's Jesse Sergent, a former Trek-Livestrong: "Shocked and sad to hear Chase Pinkham passed away, thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace Chase hope your (sic) in a better place."
Larry Warbasse (BMC), who raced with Pinkham on the USA national team: "I'll never forget the national team car rides w/ your great stories! Rest in peace dude."
Fellow Utah rider Tyler Wren (Jamis-Hagens Berman): "Glad I had the chance to enjoy some fantastic adventures & conversations with Chase Pinkham. RIP my friend. So so sad"
TJ Eisenhart (BMC Devo, also from Utah) "Broken hearted to hear the terrible new about Chase Pinkham. He loved and cared for everyone. I send my love and prayers to his family."
Tanner Putt (Bissell Devo, also from Utah) "Crushed to hear the passing of a good friend Chase Pinkham. Thanks for all the help and support over the years, I'll miss ya man!"
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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