On Sunday morning, 105 cyclers rode the weekly 9:30 a.m. bicycle race at Bethel's Francis Clarke Industrial Center. They were riding in honor of Markus Bohler, 48, who died last Sunday, March 18, from an accident in last week's race.
Robert Kelly, owner of Pawling Cycle, leads the Pawling race team, which Bohler belonged to. Kelly said, “It happened in the second race of the day. Six to eight guys were with him. It was a severe skull fracture. We think it was pretty immediate. He never retained consciousness,” Kelly said.
According to people who knew him and others who had ridden with him, Bohler raced close to 50 times at the Industrial Center. “It was a tragedy. He was turning his head to say hello to a friend and lost focus, which you can't do when you are going 25 mph. It happened so fast, he was not able to use arms or shoulder to break his fall. He came down on his head.”
Bohler's family was flown here from Germany, thanks to the fund raising done by bike racers over the course of the past week. His funeral will be held today in Pawling, NY., home of Bohler's race team. “He was one of the most dedicated members of our team,” Kelly said.
The accident which claimed Dohler's life was almost incomprehensible to the race community. Aki Sato, promoter and participant of the Bethel race, has been racing for 30 years, and said he has never seen anything like this.
“I think when people do a sport like this, it's like driving a car, you have this assumption of being invulnerable," Sato said. "You never think you will not make it to your destination. I think it will change racing for many people. A lot of riders saw this happen, and it makes it very real and very hard. This didn't happen in Afghanistan.”
Greg Pelican, owner of Bethel Cycle, said, “We have been racing around Francis Clarke on Sundays for 17-18 years. This is our home. An accident like this is extremely rare. It just doesn't happen.”
Kelly said that contacting Bohler's family in Germany was challenging because they didn't speak any English. “We had to use translators and it took a while for them to understand what had happened. It made it difficult with arrangements. Contacting the family fell on his friends. We are hanging in there.”
Kelly said he had been close friends with Bohler for two years, and said that Bohler had originally come to the US as an equestrian trainer. He also had a chemical engineer degree, and worked as a chemist.
Bethel Cycle's Pelican said he was astonished at the outpouring of generosity from the biking community. "On Monday, we started talking about what we could do, and we thought it would be nice to put in a park bench in the industrial park. The scope has evolved into a sitting area with two park benches. We started a memorial fund to do the memorial but Cannondale said they would fund the whole thing. In only three days, everything was in place.”
According to Pelican, close to $10,000 in funding and materials from various sources was raised within the week, and much of the money was used to bring Bohler's family here from Germany. Pelican said that several local businesses made contributions. Bill Muzzeo, of SL Green Real estate in White Plains, rides with the Bethel Cycle team, and offered to donate the benches. Their architect designed the site. Meaca Stone offered their labor for the site preparation and to put the stone in.
“We approached the town early on, and they fully supported it," Pelican said.
A Catholic mass will be held on Monday at St. Johns Catholic Church in Pawling from 11-12pm. After the mass, at 12:30, there will be a reception/memorial ride at Lakeside Park in Pawling. The Pawling Mountain Road Race loop will be ridden in his honor.
Kelly wrote on the Pawling Cycle Facebook page, “If you want to just come to the reception/ride that is fine. There will be food and refreshments. We will be there most the afternoon, so come and ride as you please. This has been very hard on all of us. So join us, bring good spirits and lets help each other try to get past this horrific tragedy.”