CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado (VN) — Tragedy struck the Crested Butte stop of the Enduro World Series Saturday when a Colorado rider died following a crash.
The rider, Will Olson of Edwards, Colorado, died on course following a crash around noon during the third of eight timed stages held over three days.
Olson crashed on the lower part of the run, on Trail 400 near the Block and Tackle trail, close to the finish line.
Though an official coroner’s report will not be released for several days, race organizers said early indications pointed to “blunt-force trauma to the chest.”
The accident halted competition on Saturday. The remainder of the event, to have been completed Sunday, was canceled.
Race organizers Brandon Ontiveros of Big Mountain Enduro (BME) and Chris Ball of the Scotland-based Enduro World Series (EWS) held an emotional press conference Sunday morning in Crested Butte — a press conference Ontiveros said “we all hoped would never happen.”
Ball said that competitors quickly notified on-site medics of Olson’s situation, adding that although a medic was at the scene via motorbike “within minutes,” Olson’s injuries “were such that he could not be saved.”
According to a press release issued by the Mt. Crested Butte Police Department, “two interval riders following the victim immediately began CPR and continued for approximately 30 minutes with race personnel arriving at the scene and continuing CPR for a minimum of 30 minutes longer. A paramedic, transported by Care Flight helicopter, arrived on the scene and pronounced the rider deceased.”
Asked if there were any indication what might have caused the crash, Ontiveros replied: “We’re presuming that maybe he clipped a pedal…. He was probably going about 20 to 25 mph. The section where he crashed had a chicane, around some trees. A rider came upon him laying face down. There was no indication of head injury, and no real damage to his bike. It appears to have been a blunt force trauma to the chest.”
Ontiveros added that Olson, 40, who raced in the Vet Expert 30+ category, was “one of the most talented riders in Colorado, riding near pro level.”
“He had raced our events before, he had ridden in Crested Butte, and he was one of the riders expected to win that category,” Ontiveros said. “He was very skilled, a local Colorado guy … a positive soul. I think this was just a freak accident.”
Colorado-based BME organized the event as a stop on the international EWS series, drawing riders from around the globe. Ball said that none of the event’s results would be considered in the season-long EWS standings.
“Out of respect and honor of Will, and the bike community, [canceling the event] was the proper call,” Ball said. “No one wants to go out and race their bikes after a tragic accident like that. And out of respect to Will, we decided to cancel this round, in terms of points. A rider’s life is far more important, and we feel we have the support of the riders for that decision.”
Riders and staff on hand said that Olson’s death, and the cancellation of racing, were unprecedented within the enduro racing community.
Deaths have occurred in mountain-bike racing; most recently, in August 2014, Dutch mountain biker Annefleur Kalvenhaar died following a crash in the qualifying rounds of the cross-country Eliminator at the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup stop in Méribel, France.
However, this was believed to be the first death in enduro racing, a multi-stage format that resembles downhill racing yet requires riders to pedal up “liaisons,” and then race down “special stages” that are far longer than traditional downhill runs.
In lieu of racing, a memorial group ride was scheduled for noon on Sunday. Organizers also offered counseling to riders and staff, both in Crested Butte and next week in Whistler, British Columbia, the next stop of the EWS.
Giant rider Adam Craig said canceling the remainder of the event wasn’t just the right call, it was the only decision.
“Racing is no longer relevant,” Craig said. “Canceling was the only thing they possibly could have done.
“There are so many layers of things the race organizers have to deal with, and seeing how fast people can ride through the woods isn’t one of those things. Everyone can still ride their bikes today, if they want to. They can ride them fast, or not, but it just doesn’t matter.”
Craig added that in his decade-long career he had never before participated in an event where a death had occurred.
As for the future of BME and EWS events, Ball said that he had not had time to think that far ahead, but added that nothing in the event’s preparation could have prevented Olson’s accident — or saved him.
“From the EWS perspective, I’m confident in Brandon [and] in the medical team, and in that regard, I think we have to put this down to something we do in mountain sport — and it’s something closer to us than we’d like sometimes,” he said.