The dangers of bicycle racing were highlighted Sunday during the Tour of the Battenkill, when three bicyclists suffered serious injuries after they collided and slid off the road.
The accident happened near the beginning of the race around the 7-mile mark on Roberson Road in the village of Salem, according to the event’s chief referee, Chris McBurnie.
That section of the roadway is actually among the smoothest on the course, McBurnie said. “When the road is smooth, [competitors] let their guard down,” he said.
Cambridge Valley Rescue Capt. Mark Spiezio said the three racers were airlifted to Albany Medical Center. Their conditions are unknown and further information was unavailable from police Sunday night.
There were several other accidents of a less serious nature, according to Spiezio.
The seventh annual event attracted more than 2,000 amateur and professional cyclists, including a sizable contingent from the Capital Region. It is not an International Cycling Union-level road race, which would have brought elite pro riders. Organizers had hoped they would able to obtain that status this year but were unable to find sufficient sponsors.
Art Picard of Clifton Park placed first in one of the multiple over-35 divisions — despite competing for the first time. The hilly terrain didn’t stop him.
“The third climb by far is the hardest part about this,” he said.
“He was having too much fun,” chided John Tully of Hoboken, N.J., who finished behind Picard.
Picard said he has been bicycling his whole life and the best part is “clearing your head.”
Other notable finishers were Dylan Dearborn, who finished third in the under age 35 category; John Noonan of Ballston Spa, third in the men’s over age 45; and David Bertram of Cooperstown, first in another 35 and older men’s group, according to post-race results.
There was also a group of competitors from the Capital District Triathlon Athletes who were using the event as a tune-up for their July Iron Man triathlon.
“I survived it. That’s all I was trying to do,” said Josh Katzman of Clifton Park.
Some of the dirt parts of the course were a little slippery, Katzman said. He was glad that the rain held off, otherwise it would have been much more difficult to navigate. He has been training with spin classes during the winter and did a 50-mile practice ride a few weekends ago.
His wife, Liz, and 15-month-old daughter Charlotte joined him at the finish line.
“I was impressed that he did it and he finished and he’s still standing. I’m extremely proud of him,” Liz Katzman said.
Exercising is a family affair as Charlotte is going to participate in her first running race next week — the Dodge the Deer Fun Run at Schodack Island State Park.
George Stopyak of Clifton Park, who is also training for the Iron Man, said the constant hills of this course were a struggle, especially all the sand and gravel.
The hills also gave Dan Rivers of Lowville some difficulty. “I didn’t have enough in my tank to keep up with those guys,” he said.
Robin Weber of Lake George was waiting at the finish line for her husband, Bert, who was competing in the over-45 division.
“He’s a retiree and he’s still doing this at 57. I think it’s pretty awesome,” she said. “He did an Iron Man last year for the first time as a retirement gift to himself.”
Douglas Meyer of Saratoga said he was pleased with his performance.
“Other than a cramp at the end, I did great,” he said.
Meyer is a lifelong bicycle enthusiast. “Cycling is a nice physical activity and a nice escape from the stress of everyday life,” he said.
He enjoys competing in the Battenkill because it is well organized. “It’s a unique event that offers people a chance to see a pretty part of the country,” Meyer said.