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Rider Down

August 17, 2009

I’ve got more or less favorable news from this weekend’s Xterra race at Camp Eagle, but it can wait. Last Thursday at the weekly Driveway crit series here in Austin, a man named Kevin Underhill had a catastrophic crash in the 4/5 race. I was not there, but I do attend this race regularly. I do not know the full details of his crash, but he sustained major trauma to the head. Everyone who did see it says it’s the worst carnage they have ever seen. He was knocked unconscious and there was lot of blood. He was rushed to Brackenridge hospital, treated, and held in stable condition. Eventually though, he succumbed to the injuries and passed away Sunday night.

Kevin was active in the climbing and cycling community here in Austin. This is a huge loss to us all. It makes me step back and realize the great risk we take every time we pin a number to the back of our jerseys and proceed to push our bodies and mental capacities to the limit in the spirit of competition and greater fitness. I could easily hang up the wheels and say I’m not racing anymore after something like this. I’m too young to die. An event like this will surely have several of the racers out there thinking the same thing. But truth is, we take greater risks day in and day out. Just getting behind the wheel of a car is statistically more dangerous than taking to the pedals of a race like this. Yet, none of us think twice about putting the key in the ignition and cranking that engine over before heading out to wherever it is going. Even as strong and well rounded as we athletes are, we all make poor decisions that put our lives at risk daily.

Kevin died doing what he loved, and in this, I take great comfort. People who knew him well say that he’d want us to keep on keeping on, and that is what I shall do. Kevin’s loss will be a sharp reminder of the risks the sport bears though. To not respect the consequences is to not respect the value of human life. Rest in peace, Kevin, and may the wind always be to your back.


The Austin American Statesman has issued an obituary that will run in Tuesday’s paper.

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