By Bruce Buckley
Multiple crashes, several injuries and thousands of dollars in damaged equipment at a criterium in Leonardtown, Maryland, has prompted a police investigation. The St Mary’s County Sheriff’s Dept is looking into claims that small tacks were thrown into the corners of the Leonardtown Criterium May 17 causing dozens of tire punctures and led to multiple pile-ups.
Race announcer Joe Jefferson said there were more than 10 crashes during the event, which hosted amateur mens, womens, juniors and masters fields throughout the day. After the race, he saw dozens of riders pulling tacks from their tires.
“The level of reported damage is nowhere near what it could have been,” he says.
Lateral Stress Velo rider Marc Frazer, 46, of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a broken elbow and collarbone during a crash, said Cindy Allen, public information officer for St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department. The incident is being treated as a destruction of property case, but could rise to the level of assault and reckless endangerment, she said.
“We don’t believe this was caused by anyone in the cycling community,” she said. “We’ve learned that they are a strong fraternity.”
Allen said the sheriff’s department is combing through race photos taken during the event as well as a helmet camera video shot during the Mens Cat. 1-2 race by Bryan Vaughan, of Burke, Virginia.
Vaughan was a victim after a rider in front of him crashed when his tire punctured.
“Why would someone do this?” Vaughan says. “It’s hard to image someone wouldn’t realize the potential damage they would do.”
The event was the 13th edition of the race at the venue in downtown Leonardtown said Steve Whetstone the event’s promoter.
The 0.7-mile course features a 120-degree turn at the bottom of a hill, which is followed by a slight uphill, where the tacks were allegedly thrown.
“We swept the corners all day,” Whetstone said. “We kept going back to clean them out between races. Someone must have been throwing them on the course throughout the day.”
Whetstone said that despite the incident, the club plans to continue hosting the event.
“Racers love this venue and many are concerned that we could lose it,” he said. “We expect to be back. We won’t let this deter us.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact Corporal M. Smolarsky at 301-475-4200 x 1960 or call Crime Solvers at 301-475-3333. Tipsters can also text their tips in to “TIP239” plus your message to “CRIMES” (274637). Callers and tipsters do not have to leave a name, just the information. If the information leads to the arrest and conviction, the caller/tipster may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.