I do race bikes and so any death related to cycling tugs at me just a bit more. I can rationalize away a lot of the serious accidents I read about - I'm not a pro, I slow down when I feel the need to, and I'm a reasonable bike handler.
This all changed this March when Markus Bohler fell in a Cat 3-4 race at Bethel. Tragically he never regained consciousness, passing away early the next morning.
Markus was like any one of us normal racers. Although he had started racing recently (I figure anyone who's been racing less than ten years started "recently") he could handle his bike fine in the field. I know this because I raced with him, and, unwittingly, followed him around for a lot of the race the week prior to his crash.
The last bit is significant. As many of you know I now record all the races and rides that I can. Sometimes, due to user error the camera will run out of memory or battery, one time my camera was waterlogged from the prior day's race, and other times I'll actually forget the camera. However most of my rides get recorded and I'll review many of them, however briefly, when I transfer them to a large storage drive.
I noticed something two years ago, the first year I recorded virtually every ride on the bike. I found myself following some given rider for laps at a time. Sometimes they were friends, or friendly rivals. Other times they were somewhat unfriendly (one rider swerved at me as I rode by, without any actual contact but definitely delivering a message the he didn't want me following him so I stopped following him).
The riders I follow like so all have similar characteristics - they ride smoothly and predictably and they seem to be riding the race in the same tactical mode as me. I trust these riders so I can relax a bit mentally. When I'm not behind such a rider I use a lot of mental energy trying to figure out if there's any looming danger ahead of me, if I should go with a move or not. When I am behind such a rider I just follow them.
Markus, it seems, was one of those riders I like to follow. This was evident to me when I started working on the March 11th clip, the second week of Bethel.
I found my screen filled with a tall Pawling rider, rolling on a black bike with a pair of TriSpoke wheels. I started gathering segments for my next clip and realized that I spent a lot of time in the race behind this rider.
(I have to admit I lost his wheel on the hill - he climbed better than me and consistently dropped me.)
At the time I didn't know who it was, just that he was tall, gave a lot of protection from the wind, and he rode strongly but conservatively. I try and find a storyline for my clips, a theme if you will. I decided that this tall Pawling rider would be part of the theme on this one.
I put working on the clip aside because other things intruded, mainly our new-at-the-time baby boy (he was born the day before the race), and figured I'd work on it "later" when things at home got a bit more stable. Or, in other words, when I could get some sleep during the night.
I never got back to the clip. Markus fell the next weekend and I couldn't bring myself to even look at the clip once I confirmed that the rider in it was him. I said as much to his wife Lynn. Now I think that maybe I can finish the clip, using a slightly different theme.
(That clip's theme led into other clips' themes and so has sort of held up my "clip publication", so I hope that I can undo that blockage and get some of the 2012 clips out there. And 2011 for that matter.)
The cycling community rallied together to pay their respects to Markus. With the help of a number of individuals and the donations of many from here and here, a group of people spontaneously got together and helped plan, fund, and build a memorial in Markus's honor. It sits now in a place of honor, right next to the finish line location for the Bethel Spring Series.
The sun rises behind the memorial.
Today we held a memorial ride to commemorate the ribbon cutting of the Memorial. About 40 to 50 riders gathered and set out on a couple hour ride. (A special thanks to USA Cycling who got us the permit done in absolute record time). At the end of it we had a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The memorial to the left. We're at the top of the short hill on the course.
Markus's wife came also and got to see and thank the designer, the stoneworker, the bench people, the legal guy, and various people who gave their time and energy back in a very tough March.
A picture after the ride.
(Picture by Stephen Badger)
After a brief but appropriate ceremony it was done. Everyone enjoyed the hospitality tent provided by Panificio Navona, the coffee/bakery shop that hosted registration for the Bethel Spring Series for the last couple years.
The Memorial looks like it's been there the whole time. It belongs, as someone pointed out. Next year I hope kids and riders and families camp out there to watch the races.
Markus will always be at the races in Bethel thanks to everyone that pulled together to create the Memorial in his name.
Racing with Markus.