By the time the Juneau Freewheelers Association-Tee Harbor Road Race was over Friday night, Tony Jacobsen's sprint-finish victory was but an afterthought.
All that dominated the minds of the event's cyclists was how rider Dave Ringle was doing after an ugly wreck five miles from the finish line. The wreck left Ringle briefly unconscious and sent him to the hospital where he was treated and released with a mild concussion and a bad case of road rash.
The wreck also left Ringle's helmet shattered after absorbing the blow of Ringle's head landing on the asphalt. Ringle, who teaches at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, said he plans to take the helmet to school to show his students why they need to wear one any time they ride their bicycles.
``If I hadn't had that helmet it would have been pretty ugly,'' Ringle said Saturday night. ``I'm actually fortunate there were no serious injuries. A new helmet is a lot cheaper than brain surgery.''
Ringle was in the lead group of nine riders, racing in a single-file pace line where each rider takes turns leading the race, when he overlapped his front wheel with the back wheel of Doug Woodby's bike. The tires bumped, and the next thing Ringle knew he was waking up face-down on the pavement, asking, ``Where am I?'' before collapsing face first on the road again.
Everybody in the lead group stopped after the accident, and the other riders who'd fallen behind the lead pack also stopped when they came upon the scene. Two of the nine riders in the lead group were doctors, and Janice Sheufelt treated Ringle at the scene before joining him in the race's safety vehicle for the ride to the hospital.
``There were some people on the side of the road watching the race,'' Ringle said. ``I looked up, and touched my wheel with Doug's. It took me awhile after the wreck to regain my bearings. When I got in the car, I still didn't know where I was. I'm feeling a lot better today. I've got a lot of road rash, though, on my knees, thighs and elbow. I guess I landed on my left side, because that side of my helmet is crushed.''
Woodby, who visited Ringle in the hospital emergency room after the race and even drove him home about three hours after the wreck, said he barely felt Ringle's tire clip his. He didn't realize Ringle was down until hearing Ringle's bike hit the pavement behind him.
``What probably happened was he lost track of where he was and his wheel overlapped mine,'' Woodby said, adding that it's been about seven years since the Juneau Freewheelers last had an accident of this magnitude. ``You try not to overlap your wheels in a pace line like that. Your front wheel is your stability, and it doesn't take much to knock you over. He hit my back wheel, and I barely felt it.''
The wreck left many of the other riders shaken, even if many of them didn't really see Ringle go down.
``He was behind me, so I heard it but I didn't see it,'' said John Bursell, the other doctor in the lead pack. ``You hate for someone to go down like that. I really thought more riders might go down.''
``I was in the back of the pace line, and it was pretty scary,'' Dave Pusich said. ``We all backed off after that, until the end when our competitive juices got going again.''
Jacobsen won the 21-mile race in a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes, 17 seconds. The course ran from the Tee Harbor Fire Station to Eagle Beach Recreation Area and back. Jacobsen had to pass 50-year-old Dan Harrington of Haines to win a sprint at the finish line. Harrington finished in an identical time of 1:08:17, followed by Dave Pusich in 1:08:18, Paul Pusich in 1:08:18, Woodby in 1:08:19 and Bursell in 1:08:20. Before stopping to check on Ringle, the riders had been on a pace to finish in the low 50-minute range.
``Dan led it out for me,'' Jacobsen said of the sprint.
``I'm no sprinter. I'm too old,'' Harrington said, adding that he pressed the pace early in the race to see if he could get a few members of the lead pack to fall out of the lead group. ``I had 'em right where I wanted them, then the wreck happened and they were able to catch their breath.''
Even the leaders said the wreck was their main concern.
Jacobsen was able to avoid Ringle's wreck, but Harrington barely kept his bike upright as Ringle went down in front of him. Harrington said he was barely able to keep his balance, and he couldn't avoid hitting Ringle's bike.
``I actually rode over his bike after he fell,'' Harrington said.
``I was surprised more of us didn't make contact,'' Jacobsen said. ``That just shows you've got to be aware of what's going on around you all the time.''
Woodby said the cycling club stresses safety on the roads, but there is always a risk when riding on the highway. All cyclists are required to wear helmets, and the club has a safety vehicle its lights blinking follow the riders to traffic is aware of the race.
``Safety is our main concern,'' Woodby said. ``We want to be ready if something happens.''
TEE HARBOR ROAD RACE
Results from Friday night's 21-mile Juneau Freewheelers Association-Tee Harbor Road Race, a cycling event along Glacier Highway from the Tee Harbor Fire Station to Eagle Beach Recreation Area and back. Overall placing is in parentheses after the racer's time.
Men age 30-39 - 1. Tony Jacobsen, 1:08:17 (1); 2. Dave Pusich, 1:08:18 (3); 3. Paul Pusich, 1:08:18 (4); 4. John Bursell, 1:08:20 (6); 5. Jim Sheufelt, 1:09:14 (7); 6. Steve Schmitz, 1:10:37 (9); 7. Steve Box, 1:13:00 (11); 8. Dennis Travis, 1:13:22 (14); DNF: Dave Ringle.
Men age 40-49 - 1. Doug Woodby, 1:08:19 (5); 2. Terry Ward, 1:10:33 (8); 3. Rob Welto, 1:10:37 (10); 4. Gary Mendivil, 1:13:22 (13).
Men age 50-59 - 1. Dan Harrington, 1:08:17 (2).
Women age 30-34 - DNF: Janice Sheufelt.
Women age 40-49 - 1. Betsy Fischer, 1:13:13 (12).