One of Sonoma County's more popular — and dangerous — bicycling routes snared another rider this week, leading to the serious injury of a Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital emergency room doctor who crashed while training for the GranFondo mass ride on Sept. 29.
Charles "Chuck" Magee, 66, lost control Monday on a steep curve near Timber Cove and was thrown into a rocky ravine.
The spot along the route of the 103-mile GranFondo charity ride has been the site of several similar crashes.
"It's a pretty common place for bicyclists to crash," said Timber Cove Fire Chief Michael Singer.
It happened just before 1 p.m. Monday on Hauser Bridge Road near Tin Barn Road. With the GranFondo less than a month away, many bike riders are coming through the area on practice rides.
Singer expressed concern about the potential for more injuries leading up to the annual event, which is expected to draw 7,500 cyclists.
"It's at the bottom of a very steep hill. There's a sharp turn to the left. If riders are not familiar with the road they will miss that turn," he said.
Magee remained in serious condition Tuesday afternoon at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where he was being treated by co-workers and friends.
"It's always difficult when one of our own is injured. Everyone has rallied around him," said his wife, Debbie Magee.
Magee, an avid cyclist who rides five days a week and participated in last year's GranFondo, was cycling with friends Monday prepping for this year's ride.
In 2011, three GranFondo riders crashed at the spot, resulting in serious injuries and broken bones. A Hillsborough woman crashed early in the ride and was flown out by helicopter and later a Canadian couple crashed into each other, requiring two helicopters to land in the area at the same time.
Local cycling aficionados know that Hauser Bridge Road is a white-knuckled descent. Branching off King Ridge and Tin Barn roads in the coastal hills, Hauser Bridge Road winds through oak grassland down into the trees to Hauser Bridge, a metal span over the south fork of the Gualala River.
"Most places you go, you're not going to find a road that steep, that narrow, with tree roots buckling the pavement and the occasional scatter of gravel," said Bill Oetinger, ride director for the Santa Rosa Cycling Club. "It has a lot of elements that can gang up on you if you're not being careful."
GranFondo participants must sign a waiver that highlights the most challenging sections of the ride, including Hauser Bridge Road, said Greg Fisher, the event's marketing director.
"These are old farm roads that were cut by hand, and that's very much part of their allure" Fisher said.
Event marshals will be along the route again this year with "bigger and brighter" signs warning riders to slow down.
"Come event day, there are going to be so many signs: danger, technical descent ahead, steep," Fisher said.
Magee was traveling downhill at about 20 mph into the curve, according to the CHP. He was thrown over his handlebars, launching him about 30-40 feet before landing about 10 feet down the ravine.
Timber Cove firefighters estimated they've been to the spot perhaps six times in the past few years, said Singer. With the repetition has come experience. Firefighters know how to quickly set a ladder against the slope of the embankment to reach injured cyclists. Victims are strapped to boards and pulled up the ladder and out of the ravine.