Cycling stars in Sydney hit-run horrorMay 9th, 2008
May 08, 2008 02:30pm
Hit-run terror … Kate Nichols after the 2005 crash and fellow Olympian Ben Kersten
CHAMPION cyclist Ben Kersten says a random hit-and-run road rage attack could have killed several riders today.
Road cycling star Kate Nichols is having wrist X-rays after she and most of a pack of about 50 riders - including Olympic track hopeful Kersten - crashed in peak-hour traffic near Sydney airport.
Nichols was one of five national cyclists seriously injured when a young driver crashed into the Australian women’s road team in Germany in 2005, killing Nichols’ Adelaide-born team-mate Amy Gillett.
In today’s incident Nichols, 23, and her father Kevin, a 1984 Olympic gold medallist, were in a large group of riders heading south past Sydney airport on a training ride around 6.45am.
Nichols said the cyclists were going at a good clip, two abreast as they are required to, when a car pushed them towards the edge of the road.
Witnesses said the driver appeared agitated with being held up.
“The car came past us squishing us into our lane,” Nichols said.
“And then the guy went in front of us and slammed on his brakes. He was just a total moron.
“A heap (of us) came off, but everyone just had superficial wounds and we were all treated there.”
Furious Kersten slams driver
Kersten described the incident involving the driver of a green Commodore sedan and up to 60 riders as a “f***ing disgrace”.
“This was one of the dirtiest examples of road rage I’ve ever seen,” he said.
“This guy deserves to go to jail and I hope he does go to jail.
“But he’s lucky he’s not going to jail for killing 10 innocent people.”
Kersten, bidding to ride in track sprint events in Beijing in August, said there was no excuse for - or forewarning of - the motorist’s actions.
“It was clear light, clear traffic, everyone was doing the right thing,” he said.
“Then this guy drives up behind us and starts going bananas.
“He then went up to the front of the group and, although I couldn’t see because I was in the middle of the bunch, people up the front said he started swerving in and out.
“All of a sudden, he either brakes severely in the left lane or pulled on his handbrake, and people started flying everywhere.
“It was totally unprovoked.”
Kersten said it was a miracle no one was killed.
“There was an older man from the Waratah Club who looked pretty bad,” Kersten said.
“He just got missed by a semi-trailer. The truck driver must have pretty good skills because he jack-knifed it to make sure he didn’t hit us.
“So many of us came down that we were spilling out of the left lane.
“When you fall you have no control of where you’re going to land.
“If the truck had been there five seconds earlier, he would have gone straight over the top of people.”
Only minor injuries
Kersten said had escaped with relatively minor injuries only three months before the Beijing Olympics.
“I came down in the middle of the group and ended up on my back with my feet pointing towards the back of the group,” he said.
“I spent the whole time kicking wheels off me.
“People had nowhere to go. I was 10m from the front and everyone was on the ground.
“I’ve got ring marks all over me and a lump on my head.
“I’m just lucky to have got out of it alive.”
It is understood an off-duty policeman was in a car following the group and the cyclists took the number plate of the car before it sped off.
Cycling Australia spokeswoman Gennie Sheer said police and ambulances were on the scene soon after.
“A lot of people had superficial cuts and grazes, and there’ll be a bit of checking for broken bones and the like, but at this stage it looks like we are very, very lucky that no one was seriously injured,”
Ambulance officials said several people were treated at the scene but no one was taken to hospital.
UPDATE: Police are questioning a 34-year-old man from Claymore, but no arrests have been made.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Participate in the response debate.