Sometimes, we feel immune to the worst parts of human existence. Most of us live in countries where epidemics, famines or wars happen someplace else. Only rarely, it seems, do we have to face large-scale tragedies: a September 11, a hurricane Katrina, or a San Francisco earthquake.
Such disasters didnt seem so distant last month when the Front Range of Colorado was inundated with a years worth of rainfall in a matter of days. Creeks became raging rivers, ditches turned into torrents, and streets, bridges and houses were washed away by the ensuing floods and mudslides. Towns were destroyed, thousands made homeless, and lives put on hold. Thankfully, only half-a-dozen people died, but the trauma of being displaced, feeling so threatened, or not knowing how life will go on is palpable in communities up and down the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Some of our friends lost their homes or were evacuated after the canyon access roads disappeared. One community, Jamestown, has suffered disproportionatelyhouses wrecked, bridges washed away, trees down, drinking water suspended, and the water treatment plant wiped out. And the road up James Canyon remains impassable.
Before the monster storm, Jamestown was one of the most popular destinations for Boulder cyclists, along with a stop for a snack or drink at the small communitys famous Merc (Jamestown Mercantile Co. Caf). Its longtime owner was killed when his house was crushed by rocks and mud brought down by the deluge. The tab for reconstruction in the town is estimated at $30 million or more. Disaster funding from the state, county and FEMA will help, but that wont cover all the costs of rebuilding or restoring the towns bucolic charm.
To help the flood victims, the local cycling community is holding a daylong fundraiser on October 19. Anyone can donate to the Cyclists 4 Jamestown fund at c4jtown.com while the organizers of Colorados U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge are selling specially designed T-shirts, with proceeds going to the United Ways of Colorado Flood Relief Fund shop.usaprocyclingchallenge.com/gdpcc12251302.html
Its gratifying to see how the cycling community comes together in the face of hardship or tragedy. Thats been especially true these past few weeks in Boulder, both before and after the floods. It began just over a month ago when U.S. Bicycling Hall of Famer Dale Stetina, 57, was critically injured when he crashed face first onto the road descending the canyon that connects with the one leading to Jamestown.
When I interviewed him a couple of years ago, Stetina said, Being able to spend hours riding up in the mountains, and down out of the mountains next to beautiful mountain streams, enjoying good weather, thats as close to Nirvana I guess as I would get as a cycling enthusiast.
On August 31, hed been riding in the mountains with a bunch of friends on a Saturday morning, training for an upcoming cycling trip to the Dolomites of northeast Italy. As the riders rounded a long, fast, downhill turn, they were confronted by a Jeep SUV pulling across the road from a parking area to their right. They all missed the vehicle, but Stetina veered out of control and went over his handlebars. He was airlifted to Boulder Community Hospital with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and has since been transferred to Denvers Craig Hospital, which specializes in neuro-rehabilitation.
His daughter Kate reported from the hospital on October 7, following a meeting with her fathers doctors, nurses and therapists. She wrote: He has suffered a type of TBI called Diffuse Axonal Injury, which is like microscopic bleeds all over his brain caused by sheering forces (acceleration/deceleration in the accident). There is a major bleed to his left thalamus, which is like the central switching station of the brain. This injury often affects things like attention, effort, language, speech, forgetfulnessmuch of what we’ve seen in Dad as he’s been recovering.
His long-term prognosis is favorable and though Stetina cannot have visitors, he could be out of the hospital next month. He is the younger brother of Shimano USA vice president Wayne Stetina and father of pro racer Peter Stetinawhos joining BMC Racing in 2014 after several seasons with the Colorado-based Garmin team. A trust fund rally.org/dalestetina has been set up for Dale Stetina that will help with any medical costs not covered by insurance, his rehab, and possible long-term care.
The Boulder cycling community received its biggest blow October 3 when long-time resident and international cyclocross star Amy Dombroski was killed on an afternoon training ride in Belgium. She was hit by a truck as she motor-paced behind a scooter on a country road 30 kilometers northwest of Brussels. Dombrowski, 26, who was in her second season with the elite Telenet-Fidea cross team, was greatly admired for her pioneer spirit, determination, and quirky sense of humor. She was engaged to Colorado motocross racer Ryan Rozinski.
A memorial fund amydombroski.com/site/ has been set up to help her family in this difficult time, and both the U.S. cyclocross community and Boulder cyclists have honored Dombroski, 26. Last weekend, there was a silent lap ridden by competitors at the Providence Cyclo-cross Festival in Rhode Island, and a memorial service and candlelight vigil with dozens of friends and family in Boulder. And this Sunday, at the Boulder Cup cross in Valmont Bike Park, there will be a lap of honor at 2 p.m. to honor Dombroski.
The confluence of Dombroskis tragic death, Stetinas serious accident, and Coloradans flood-induced trauma may be an unusual example of unwanted challenges in lifebut such dreadful occurrences can happen anywhere, at any time. Whats gratifying to know is that the probable reaction by the cycling community is one of sympathy, support and generosity. Rest in peace, Amy. Healing wishes, Dale. And chins up to the Coloradans still reeling from the Great Flood of 2013.
You can follow John on twitter.com @johnwilcockson