A death at the Olympic Training Center 7-Eleven Velodrome Tuesday night in Colroado Springs has shocked the local racing community.
Victor Williams, a 51-year-old masters racer, a mechanical engineer, and the president of the Natural Grocers amateur team, was thrown from his bike after a collision with another racer just after 9 p.m. on Tuesday.
Colorado Springs TV station KKTV reports that velodrome staff administered CPR on the cyclist, and first responders continued revival attempts after arriving on the scene, however Williams was pronounced dead before 9:30 p.m. The second rider sustained minor injuries.
The Colorado Springs police department said it would not investigate the matter further, as it was not criminal in nature.
Williams was the 2012 U.S. masters national points race champion, and held two other national titles. He represented the U.S. at the world masters track championships on numerous occasions. His USA Cycling results can be found here.
Mark Tyson, a longtime coach at the velodrome, said Williams and another rider overlapped wheels during a 50-lap points race, which took out Williams’ front wheel, launching him from his bike. Williams suffered a skull fracture, Tyson said, and never regained consciousness.
“He had a very faint pulse, for maybe one minute, and then he was gone,” Tyson said. “Even 45 minutes of EMTs pounding on him couldn’t revive him. He went very quickly, and I’m sure pretty painlessly. It’s a huge tragedy.”
Tyson said that Williams had homeschooled his daughter Kirsten, the current 15-16 national omnium champion, after he suffered a cycling accident about 10 years ago, and that the two had grown very close as he had mentored her progression into track racing.
“The race previous to [the accident] was a miss-and-out, and Kirsten was the one who put him out, and he was so proud of that, to be put out by his own daughter, and that is just emblematic of the kind of guy who he is,” Tyson said. “She was the apple of Vic’s eye. He was a great parent. He was the kind of guy who could be very self-effacing, with a very dry sense of humor, yet he managed to pull it off without being sarcastic, or biting, and that’s a real skill.”
Williams’ daughter was on the velodrome, in the race, when Tuesday’s crash occurred.
“When she came around the track and saw her father on deck, she was very traumatized, understandably,” Tyson said. “She and her mother are both doing pretty well today, all things considered. They are quite religious people, and that is holding them in good stead. Vic and I had become pretty good friends, I’d been helping his daughter on the track — she’s been a bit of a project of mine, and she’s just a delightful young woman. He was a fine guy, I miss him a bunch.”
Williams is survived by his wife of 26 years, Karen, and his daughter, Kirsten. “Words cannot express how thankful we are of the cycling community and their support at this difficult time,” Karen Williams said in a post on the Facebook page of the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado.
USA Cycling issued a statement regarding Williams’ tragic passing, saying that the federation “is extremely saddened.”
“Vic was serving on the board of directors for both the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado as well as the Colorado Velodrome Association at the time of the accident,” USA Cycling’s statement reads. “He was involved in nearly every aspect of cycling for the past 30 years, including running teams, promoting race series and coaching junior cyclists. Vic also raced nationally and internationally in road, track and cyclocross events.”
Mark Legg-Compton, husband of World Cup cyclocross champion Katie Compton, knew Williams from time spent racing against one another in Colorado Springs.
“Vic Williams was one of those guys you looked forward to racing your bike against,” he wrote in an email to VeloNews. “No matter how hard he drilled you and how often he rode you off his wheel, you were almost thankful for the beat down. Every now and then, when I got the better of Vic, he was always grateful for the good battle. He was one of the guys you wanted to race your bike against, to challenge yourself and enjoy the camaraderie that we shared together.
“I can’t imagine how brutal this is for his loved ones,” Legg-Compton continued. “This is going to be extremely challenging for Vic’s daughter who is a very talented bike racer. I know we’ll all draw together as a community to help her through this period, and we’ll always be there for her in the years to come, just as Vic would for any of us. Vic was just one of those quiet guys who left a lasting impression on everyone who came into his world. He was one of the good guys.”
Neal Henderson, a Colorado-based coach and track athlete, shared his memories of Williams.
“Vic always had a smile, firm handshake, and helping hand available to meet, greet and assist anyone around him – stranger or friend,” Henderson wrote via email. “Vic was a big man with an even bigger heart. I had the opportunity to race with Vic on a master’s nationals medal winning team pursuit team in 2009. Three of us were in our 30s, and Vic was in his later 40s, but he was the captain of the team, not because of his age, experience, or strength — all of which he had more than all of us — but because of his ability to calmly execute a plan and get everyone moving together toward a greater good than anyone individually could do.”
Henderson said that Williams worked most recently for Sierra Nevada Corporation in Louisville, Colorado, working on the Dream Chaser project, building a space vehicle to replace NASA’s Space Shuttle.
“I’ve had the good fortune to be able to help guide Vic and his teenage daughter Kirsten with their training for several years, and it was always a pleasure to greet them to review the joy and fun they had together preparing for competition and racing around Colorado and throughout the USA,” Henderson continued. “Just last week, we made plans for the future that will unfortunately not happen. Suddenly, everything has changed for the Williams family, and my heart goes out to Kirsten and Karen.”
Geoff Finley called Williams a “good friend” whose families attended church together for many years. “He was a mentor in a lot of ways, especially the way that he shared and encouraged cycling with his daughter Kirsten, who I’ve been riding with in some form since she was 10. I told him the last time that we rode together how much I enjoyed seeing them ride together, and how much I admired the way that he encouraged and taught without being the typical overbearing parent of a talented son or daughter, and how that was exactly the way I wanted to be with my boys if or when they took up the sport. He was a class act.”
USA Cycling president and CEO Steve Johnson called Williams ”an incredible individual and a true champion for track cycling in Colorado,” adding, “he will be sorely missed by all of us here at USA Cycling and the entire Colorado cycling community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Vic’s friends and family at this difficult time.”
A memorial service for Williams will be held Saturday, June 14, at 1pm, at Village Seven Presbyterian Church, 4055 Nonchalant Circle, Colorado Springs