Casey Saunders of Saint Louis, Missouri died after crashing in the Pro-1-2 criterium at Tour of KC Sunday in Kansas City.
Mark Thomas, who owns an art gallery on the course in the Crossroads neighborhood, says the crash happened on a right-hand turn just past the start/finish. Thomas was up on the announcer’s stage to present awards when the crash occurred.
“It’s not my race course, but I thought it was a safe venue,” said Thomas, who also promotes races in the area. “Fast pretty flat, good security. I think the race director did a great job with it.”
He added that emergency responders were quick to attend to Saunders. Unfortunately, the Dogfish-Team Noah rider could not be saved. Saunders was an experienced Cat. 1 racer who also competed on the track and in cyclocross.
This year, the 54-year-old Tour of KC consisted of a five-kilometer prologue time trial, a circuit race, and the Sunday criterium in Kansas City’s Crossroads neighborhood. This was the third year using the eight-corner criterium course.
“That particular wreck in that particular corner… Everybody looked like they were going through smooth and that was not expected,” Thomas added.
Alex Grman was friends with Saunders for the last 10 years. He lived with him, worked with him at The Hub Bicycle Company, and raced with him on the same team. “He always had his head up. I never knew him to get angry, just always positive, always happy,” Grman said. “Casey always had Oreos in the car. And it wasn’t rare for us to stay at the velodrome until dark drinking beers and shooting bottle rockets with our racing friends.”
Grman and friends are planning a small memorial ride Monday night to the Penrose Park velodrome where Saunders would race.
Criterium national champion Brad Huff raced with Saunders over the years in Missouri. “He was very well respected and very experienced rider that didn’t take chances. Everyone loved him,” Huff said.
Huff also said that his friend Ryan Thompson was nearby when Saunders crashed on Sunday and tried to render aid. “Ryan actually took his shirt off and did his best to put compression on the blood flow that he said was so immense he felt Casey wouldn’t survive the massive blood flow,” Huff said.
“The whole Midwest cycling scene is devastated.”