Newly released spectator photographs appear to confirm the involvement of a race moto in the crash that injured BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney at Monday’s Volkswagen USA Cycling National Road Championship.
The photos, snapped by spectator Beth Ward and published by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, capture the moment of Phinney’s impact with a guard rail and the six minutes leading to his subsequent departure by ambulance.
In the image depicting the crash itself, Phinney is shown on the ground just ahead of a race moto, which appears to be slowed or stopped. The driver’s left foot is planted on the ground as UnitedHealthcare’s Lucas Euser comes into the frame from behind, his own left foot unclipped from its pedal as he swerves to avoid the race official. Additional photos depict the damage incurred to Euser’s rear wheel and suggest that Phinney’s bike may have traveled some 50 feet past the scene of the accident.
The article includes an account of the accident from witness Jeanne Crawford, a local gift shop owner.
“Of course, police cars come by and other guys come by,” the paper quotes Crawford as saying. “Then I see the motor marshal come by, and all of a sudden the next two guys are on him. I mean they came so quick.
“I don’t think that he [the motor marshal] realized they were that close, and when he did he was trying to move over. That’s when his wheel seemed like it was wobbling because he was trying to move over.”
Crawford says she didn’t realize the rider in question was the race favorite, Phinney, as she watched the scene unfold.
“At that time I didn’t know it was [him], but they were just too close to the bridge. He passed [the motorcycle] on the left and he never could recover. He just went on into the guardrail. … It was just awful.”
Phinney suffered a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula in the crash and has since undergone a pair of surgeries at Chattanooga’s Erlanger Hospital. On Saturday, Phinney was transported via air ambulance to Park City, Utah, where he will continue his recovery under the supervision of BMC team doctors Max Testa and Eric Heiden.
The 23-year-old captured his second national time trial championship just two days before the Memorial Day accident and had planned to debut his national champion’s skinsuit in the prologue of the Criterium du Dauphine on June 8 as part of his buildup to what he had hoped would be his Tour de France debut.
Initially, USA Cycling officials described their investigation of the accident as ongoing, confirming only that there had not been contact between any rider and any race vehicle. On Friday, spokesman Bill Kellick described the incident as “unfortunate.”
“The nature of racing is that there are officials’ vehicles on the road [during races]. Cyclists know to look out for them, and vice versa,” Kellick told the Times Free Press. “It was just an unfortunate part of the bike race, and obviously we’re just saddened that it happened. We of course wish Taylor a speedy recovery.”
Phinney’s mother, former Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter, was less generous in her assessment of the situation.
“Clearly there was a moto where it shouldn’t have been,” Carpenter told the paper.
On Thursday, Phinney made his first public comment about the accident, tweeting: “Thank you for all your love and support. The past three days have been incredibly trying. … The road back will be long, but I am up for it!”