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GranFondo cycling crashes down from last year

Participants in Levi's GranFondo ride on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012.

KENT PORTER/ PD
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 8:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 7:37 a.m.

In the aftermath of Sonoma County's signature cycling ride, the GranFondo, at least four cyclists were recovering Sunday from broken bones after crashing along the course.

For a ride involving more than 7,000 cyclists -- and the accompanying 14,000 wheels, pedals and handlebars -- the reported injuries were fewer and less serious than previous years, emergency personnel said.

"It was a very successful event; there were very few injuries and very few problems," said CHP Sgt. Kahl Eidam, who was among a team of officers patrolling the event on motorcycle.

"We had fewer incidents than the year before," Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman said. "I treated a bee sting up on Coleman Valley Road, but that's about it."

More than 7,000 people participated in Saturday's charity ride started four years ago by professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa.

The ride started in west Santa Rosa and, depending on which of three routes a rider followed, included miles passing through the Graton and Occidental areas, the Sonoma Coast, the Russian River region and Cazadero.

"We're not happy about any injuries, but we're happy that there were less than any year before," said Greg Fisher, GranFondo marketing director.

On Saturday, riders experienced a sparkling sunny day with some fog on the coast. In contrast, last year rain slicked roads and contributed to several serious crashes on some of the course's trickiest turns and descents.

In 2011, seven cyclists were taken by helicopter and ambulances to hospitals with moderate and major injuries after crashes during the ride. Three of those people crashed on one of the trickiest spots on the 103-mile course near Timber Cove, Hauser Bridge near Tin Barn roads.

Event staff this year posted additional ride marshals to wave flags and signs warning cyclists about the curve during their approach.

During the 2010 event, a cyclist narrowly survived after being struck by a hit-and-run motorist.

Authorities are still searching for the driver, who appeared to intentionally hit the rider.

Saturday's ride did not end without some inevitable bruises and road rash. At least two people were flown to hospitals because of their injuries and the remote locations where they crashed.

Two cyclists broke clavicle bones and two others suffered injuries to pelvic bones Saturday after crashing on various parts of the course, Fisher said.

One rider was flown by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital after a bad crash on Bittner Road near Joy Road, said Occidental Fire Chief Ron Lunardi.

"He went down real hard," Lunardi said. "There are tight 'S' curves there."

Paramedics treating the man became concerned when his condition began deteriorating and called for the helicopter for a faster ride, said the chief.

Several others crashed in the surrounding Occidental area but they brushed themselves off and continued the ride.

"These bike riders would go down and get right back up and keep going," Lunardi said.

Graton firefighters responded to three crashes involving injuries, fire Capt. Robert Sabrowsky said.

One rider crashed in gravel and may have broken bones at a turn on Graton and Sullivan roads in Graton and was taken by ambulance to Memorial.

Another crash occurred on Occidental Road at Atascadero Creek when someone apparently slowed and caused several riders to also brake quickly.

One woman lost control of her bike and went down and was taken to the hospital with a possible lower-back injury.

A third rider crashed at Occidental Road and Highway 116 and was treated at the scene.

"It's pretty incredible for that many cyclists to ride safely over that many miles," said Fisher.

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