A new Fresno cycling event is marred by tragedy

FRESNO, Calif.

The family of 29-year-old Chowchilla native, Crystel Stanford says the avid rider suffered skull fractures and brain swelling, and that there is no hope for recovery.

Crystel's mother says, her daughter is being kept alive so that doctors can harvest her organs to donate. Crystel was not the only cyclist injured this past weekend. Still, Crystel's family says she knew the risks. And so do other riders who rode on Saturday.

Vanessa McCracken said, "The severity of the two accidents really just made the whole situation worse."

McCracken was one of 1500 cyclists who participated in the first ever Eye-Q California Classic cycling event. She and her husband own Sunnyside Bicycles in Southeast Fresno. And while both maintain the 100-mile route was safe, McCracken says, Saturday's accident has hit the local cycling community hard.

"Um definitely heartbroken," said McCracken. "You know, we know the risks, but at the same time, we don't think that's ever going to happen."

McCracken, and other avid cyclists say injuries are common during bike races.

Bryan Jones is Fresno's traffic manager. He recalls, during last year's Amgen Tour of California, when Lance Armstrong crashed his bike just outside Exeter.

Bryan Jones said, "There are multiple accidents that occur every day and those are professional cyclists who do this for a living."

Fatalities, on the other hand, are rare. In 2010, one professional rider died during a race in Italy. And just two weeks ago, a Belgian rider died during another Italian race.

Crystel Stanford fell, while riding along a steep grade in the Sierra foothills, where another rider, also fell, after his tire blew. The 48-year-old Clovis man is still in the hospital, with major injuries.

Both families tell Action News they don't blame the course, or the people who planned the event.

Mike Herman said, "It only had a 1900 elevation gain, so compared to a lot of the other events, like the Kaiser and some of these other events around California and the country; ours was not a very difficult course."

Organizers don't anticipate changing the course. But, they will meet this week to discuss that. Either way, they do want to make the California Classic weekend an annual event.

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