A massive pileup Wednesday about 20km from the finish of stage 1 at the Tour of the Gila sent as many as 10 riders to the hospital, two of whom were airlifted more than 200 miles to the Tucson Medical Center.
Silber Pro Cycling, a Canadian Continental team, said riders Nicolas Masbourian and Derrick St. John were conscious and coherent and were recovering at the Tucson hospital Wednesday night.
The crash occurred on a slightly downhill stretch of straight road as 5-hour Energy and Hincapie Sportswear were contributing to a chase to bring back four escapees who had built a gap of more than 10 minutes.
Touched wheels or a moments inattention caused several riders to go down on the right hand side of the road. The initial reaction sent riders peeling off into the long grass lining the ditch, while the high speeds caused an extended pileup in the middle of the road, launching bikes and riders into the air as they tried to stop or avoid the carnage.
"Everyone was braking, and then people from the back were shooting into you," said California Giant-Specialized's Yannick Eckmann, who suffered some road rash in the crash.
"I went in and then I was under all the bikes," Eckmann said. "Then I got up and looked around as was like, 'fuck.' Half our team was in it, which was sad to see, but I guess some of us got lucky. Some people looked way worse. It was on a downhill and super fast. One guy went down, and then the whole road blocked up. It was just disaster."
Another rider said the crash was like being tumbled around in a clothes washer.
The Silber team took the brunt of the damage, but 25-30 riders needed medical attention after the stage. Jelly Belly-Maxxis had six riders go down in the crash. US pro road champion Freddie Rodriguez was banged up and appeared to have injured his left forearm, but he finished the stage and said he would likely start stage 2 on Thursday. Team manager Danny Van Haute said all of his riders are OK.
Team SmartStop also had several riders involved in the crash. Julien Kyer, Josh Berry, Cameron Cogburn and Mike Torckler all went down and suffered road rash and abrasions. It was not known at press time if all the SmartStop riders would start stage 2.
Hincapie Sportswear's Chris Butler suffered several deep wounds to his right knee. Butler finished the stage but will not start stage 2. The team said the rest of its riders were OK to start on Thursday.
UnitedHealthcare's Carlos Alzate also had severe road rash, while Gavin Mannion of 5-hour Energy was heavily bruised and scraped. Canyon Bicycles' Morgan Schmitt sought medical attention at a local hospital but was OK, according to his team. Six riders for Canyon will not start stage 2.
None of the teams went unscathed. Only 14 riders did not finish the stage, but the number of riders knocked out of the race by the crash could rise considerably as others decide not to start stage 2.
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and 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, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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