“Do you know this road?” a rider decked out in fluorescent green riding gear asked as he rode past me on one of the false summits on High Drive about 43 miles into our 62-mile metric century, part of the Red Rocks Century through Morrison and Evergreen.
Breathing heavily I replied, “No, I don’t know this road,” and smiled as he rode ahead of me. Plenty of people passed me on this grueling ride and we were in yet another category 4 climb up High Road so we didn’t engage in much conversation. But this rider stood out. Distinguished grey hair crept out from under his helmet, he was built like a cyclist, lean, with well-defined calves. And he rode with confidence, sporting a fluorescent green shirt complemented by fluorescent green socks.
“All right, you don’t have to rub it in,” I yelled out as he cruised ahead and started weaving and doing figure eights and put more distance between us.
We continued on through what cyclists know as the “steeps” of the High Drive climb, including switchbacks with 15% grade…in a word, difficult. When I wasn’t staring at the white stripe on the side of the road I would look up ahead to catch the fluorescent green flash and know I would soon be where he was.
Finally I reached the summit, so thrilled to be on the Stanley/Little Cub Creek descent. But only a few switchbacks down Little Cub it was clear something was wrong, very wrong.
I could hear people frantically yelling and as I turned I could see two vehicles parked on the side of the road with their doors open as if the occupants had gotten out in a hurry. And then I saw him. The fluorescent green rider who had been so joyful and encouraging was down.
Quickly one could see the vehicles had nothing to do with what had happened. The stem of his bike was sheared off and the front tire landed nearly eight feet on top of the granite outcroppings. From what I could gather the drivers of the cars saw him descend in front of them and when they turned, they saw the result of what appeared to be a head-on crash into those rocks. They pulled over to help and when I arrived 1-2 minutes after the accident they were on the ground with him administering CPR with the help of a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
“Do you know CPR?” they yelled at me as I got off my bike.
“No,” I knelt down and touched the fluorescent green socks which I’d made note of just a few minutes earlier.
“We’re right here,” said one woman as she caressed the rider’s head while someone else pumped his chest, and another person gave him mouth to mouth.
More cyclists were descending, and it was my turn to ask for help.
“Do you know CPR?”
“Yes,” answered a rider, “I’m a doctor.”
She took over CPR duties as we heard sirens in the distance.
When the Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy arrived the fluorescent green rider had been receiving CPR for several minutes with no response. The deputy took out a defibrillator from her trunk and went to work. The ambulance arrived and the paramedics rushed over to take over the resuscitation efforts.
All the while, those who’d stopped first to help him never left his side, letting him know he was not alone and urging him to hold on.
But his heart had given out.
We all stood on the side of the road knowing there was nothing anyone could do.
What just happened? Just a few minutes ago this man had been riding and climbing and laughing and making figure eights on the road and now he was gone forever, in the blink of an eye. I turned back to look at the good Samaritans who pulled off the road and spent so much time with this rider, making sure he didn’t leave this world alone. I wondered about who might be waiting for him, when they would learn how suddenly he was gone and how they would move forward without him not realizing their goodbye that morning was their last.
My thoughts were all over the map during the rest of the silent descent and the long ride back to the start of the Red Rocks Century. My husband was also on this ride, was he OK?
The fluorescent green rider I’d been following wasn’t leading me anymore, and I couldn’t get him out of my mind. Life is so very precious, and until that last breath he was riding with so much joy and flair and exuberance. I cannot imagine what those who love him are going through right now. I am so sorry for their loss.
I do want them to know he exuded kindness, encouragement and amazing energy and wore the coolest pair of fluorescent green socks.