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By Zack Vestal
Stage 4 of the Intermontane Challenge coincided with Benjamin Sonntag’s birthday, but for him it will be most memorable for a trip to the emergency room in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Or maybe not — the MonaVie-Cannondale rider lost consciousness for several minutes and doesn’t remember anything until he was stabilized at the ER.
But Chris Sheppard remembers. The Santa Cruz-WTB-Fox rider, who won stage 4 and took the race leader’s jersey, was off the front with Sonntag when the crash occurred.
“We were bombing down, just an open area, and a stick went into his spokes,” said Sheppard. Sonntag hit the ground hard, on the left side of his head, he added.
“He was out for almost seven minutes,” Sheppard said. “It was insane. I’ve never seen that kind of thing.”
Sheppard stopped to attend to Sonntag and stayed with him until emergency personnel and MonaVie team manager Matt Ohran arrived, nearly a half hour later.
“He came to, and his vital signs stabilized,” said Sheppard, who is studying massage therapy in Bend, Oregon. “Thank goodness for the massage school, the first aid and the CPR training.”
By the time Sheppard remounted, he had been passed by MonaVie’s Tinker Juarez, Brian Cooke and a number of other racers. But the Santa Cruz rider made up time on the remaining downhill and still crossed the line first, with Cooke in second, several minutes back.
Meanwhile, there was more bad news for MonaVie-Cannondale — Juarez had missed a course marker and found himself next to a highway. He elected to hitchhike back to the start, effectively ending his shot at the overall title.
• There was less drama in the women’s race, as Sue Butler (MonaVie-Cannondale) finished more than 15 minutes in front of Amanda Carey (Kenda-Tomac-Hayes) to consolidate her lead on GC.
• Sonntag and teammate Jeremiah Bishop, who crashed out of the race on stage 3, are both recovering from their respective wrecks, with no apparent lasting ill effects, and attended the evening’s jersey presentations for Sheppard and Butler.