Hard crashes are common in amateur criteriums, but fatalities are rare. That’s why the death of 48-year-old Markus Bohler is resonating throughout the global cycling community.
Bohler, of Poughkeepsie, New York, died Sunday night after he was thrown from his bike in a Bethel, Connecticut, Cat. 3/4 race on the well-known Francis J. Clark Circle course in an industrial park that is home to the Dorel Industries’ Cycling Sports Group, owner of the Cannondale, GT, Schwinn, Mongoose and Sugoi brands. Many of the 250 employees of those brands participate in the Bethel Spring Series races.
Bohler was rushed to a Danbury hospital and underwent emergency surgery, but died late Sunday night, according to police reports.
The avid amateur cyclist, a German native, was a technical service project leader for Amsterdam-based AkzoNobel, a paint and chemicals company.
He was injured in the seventh of eight races of the day in the weekly Bethel Springs Series. Officials neutralized the Cat. 3/4 race immediately after the crash and cancelled it when Bohler was taken away in an ambulance.
The final race of the day was held without incident after Bohler’s injury but before news of his death was released Monday morning.
Bethel police reports say he was wearing a helmet and was in the middle of the pack when he suddenly fell head first to the pavement on the 0.8-mile paved course.
Bethel police captain Roger Cedergren told the Poughkeepsie Journal that it wasn’t the first major injury in the 18-year history of the Bethel race.
“It’s not unusual for the riders in this bicycle racing event to be injured and require medical services,” he said. “This was an untimely, accidental death.”
Bethel police are trying to get video footage of the race from helmet cams worn by other riders to determine exactly what caused Bohler’s crash.
A rash of crashes in Cat. 5 races in previous years races caused the organizers of the series to require riders in that category to take a bike-handling course before being allowed to upgrade to Cat. 4, according to Greg Pelican, owner of Bethel Cycle and a long-time sponsor of the Bethel Springs Series.
“That course is not any worse and, if anything, it’s safer than most industrial park race courses,” Pelican says. “There’s only about 100 feet of elevation over eight-tenths of a mile and there’s only one right-hand corner.”
Andrea Smith, communications director for USA Cycling, says her organization does not keep records of race fatalities.
“They are very rare,” she says. “But one cycling death is too many.”
David McKay Wilson, a friend of Bohler and advocacy director of the Westchester (N.Y.) Cycle Club, told the Poughkeepsie newspaper that “Markus was a dedicated cyclist who found such joy on the roads.
“We’ll really miss his exuberance.”
Local riders are planning a tribute to Bohler before Sunday’s races, the last of the series.