The man arrested in the crash that seriously injured professional cyclist Michael Torckler is suspected of driving intoxicated at the time of the accident, the CHP said Sunday.
Arthur Ben Yu of Rohnert Park was booked Saturday into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, hit-and-run driving, stealing a vehicle and driving on a suspended license.
Yu, 36, was identified by a passenger who had been riding with him Friday when the crash occurred on Pine Flat Road northeast of Healdsburg, CHP Officer Tom Barto said.
The driver fled the scene in the car, but the passenger got out and stayed with Torckler, along with a city of Santa Rosa worker who came upon the injured cyclist, Barto said.
"He's actually the one who was crucial in identifying the suspect," Barto said of the passenger. His statement led investigators to conclude Yu had been drinking.
Torckler, 25, a New Zealander who had recently joined the Santa Rosa-based Bissell Pro Cycling team, was riding down the steep, hilly road when he collided with a car heading uphill.
While the passenger and city worker stayed with Torckler, a third passerby drove down the hill and contacted emergency dispatchers, and Torckler subsequently was airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.
The crash was the latest in a series of vehicle-vs.-bicyclist incidents in the North Bay that have left five people dead in the past six weeks.
Torckler's condition improved to "fair" Sunday, said Katy Hillenmeyer, spokeswoman for Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa. He remained in the intensive care unit.
His parents, Brohn and Linda Torckler of New Plymouth, New Zealand, arrived Saturday night in Santa Rosa, 30 hours after they first received the hospital's call that their son had been critically injured.
Brohn Torckler said their son was "better than expected. The doctors are blown away."
While still in New Zealand, the couple had learned from the hospital that their son appeared to have no bleeding or damage to the brain. He suffered serious facial fractures and a concussion, but from beneath "his nose to his toes" he didn't have any broken bones or internal injuries, his father said.
The Torcklers said they appreciated the prayers "from around the world" for their son, as well as the local cyclists and others who have reached out to help them in all sorts of ways.
Of her son, Linda Torckler said, "He's got a very strong spirit."
The couple said they hold no bitterness or animosity toward the driver in the crash and feel certain their son won't either.
Yu, who was arrested at his home, was accused of taking his father's car without permission, CHP Officer Jon Sloat said, adding Yu has "an extensive criminal history," but he could not release details.
Yu is being held without bail. His first court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Torckler this year had been a member of New Zealand's Pure Black Racing team, but he recently switched to the Bissell team, Bissell team manager Glen Mitchell said. An announcement was to have been made shortly before Torckler's entrance with the team into the Cascade Classic in Bend, Ore., on July 17.
Bissell said he was pleased Sunday to see Torckler "just starting to talk a little bit."