SILVER CITY, N.M. (KRQE) – Cyclists are calling it one of the worst crashes they’ve seen. Dozens of riders racing at high speeds were involved in a dangerous pileup in the Tour of the Gila on Wednesday. At least two cyclists were flown to the hospital.
Video from a cyclist in the 28th annual Tour of the Gila Wednesday afternoon shows him pulling up on the aftermath. At least a dozen of the roughly 80 racers involved in the pileup were injured.
“The day started off really nicely and calm winds, but the winds grew down here in southwest New Mexico quite a bit,” explained Jack Brennan, race director.
Brennan said the wind likely played a factor in the crash. The invite-only race includes 21 teams. This leg of the race involved about 150 men, all competitive riders.
“They’ve been riding their bikes for a long time, and they feel really comfortable with the person next to them,” explained Brennan.
The group was going downhill northwest of Silver City toward Glenwood, at about 45 miles per hour, staying in a pack until the final climb.
“The speculation I’ve heard is that a wheel got crossed or a handlebar got tangled up and people went down very quickly,” said Brennan.
Video recorded by a cyclist shows people scrambling to help the riders who hit the pavement. Twenty one team cars who follow along stopped to help. An ambulance and State Police also stay with the cyclists and kicked into high gear helping the injured.
Brennan said help was readily available to the cyclists. “We have officials riding in cars watching the race, then we have a team doctor vehicle in there, then we have a caravan of team vehicles that are also in the race,” he said.
Word quickly spread online. Cyclists were tweeting that it was the most crowded crash they’d ever seen.
Brennan said in his 14 years as race director, he’s never seen a crash like this one. “Never like this no, we’ve had accidents, very severe, but not of the number that were involved today.”
Two riders were air-lifted to a hospital in Tuscon, Arizona. Another 10 went to a local hospital, but their conditions are unknown.
Cyclists were just 15 miles from the finish of their 92 mile leg, and out of the dozens who fell, most got back up and finished.
Only 15 riders did not cross the finish line Wednesday. There’s four more days of cycling. The race continues Thursday with a 75-mile loop through the mountains in Silver City, before the Gila Monster Road Race on Sunday.