Freak crash mars GranFondo ride

In an unusual collision, a bicyclist was seriously injured Saturday while riding in Levi’s GranFondo when a large squirrel darted onto Bohemian Highway and became entangled in the front wheel of his bike.

Pulled into the spokes, the squirrel died and the bike was forced to an abrupt stop.

The rider flipped over the front of his handlebars and landed hard on the pavement, Monte Rio fire Chief Steve Baxman said.

The man, who appeared to be in his 40s, told firefighters he was from Oakland but he was very disoriented and struggled to answer questions, Baxman said. He was taken by ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

The crash occurred a little before 10 a.m. between Camp Meeker and Monte Rio as the first big wave of riders traveled along the winding, rural highway.

The riders were part of the annual Levi’s GranFondo charity ride, which draws riders from across the country. The event took 7,000 bicyclists along three routes heading from Santa Rosa into the west county and coastal hills.

The unusual accident caused several riders to stop and take photos of the squirrel caught in the wheel. “It was an oddity,” Baxman said.

Baxman, who has been fire chief and in fire services in the west county for decades, said the circumstances were a first for him. He has responded to plenty of bike crashes with riders blaming a squirrel for running in front of them, he said. “I’ve never seen a squirrel caught in the spokes.”

The Oakland man was one of 11 riders taken to hospitals from bike spills, including three taken by helicopter or ambulance with lights and sirens activated.

A few of the bike crashes occurred on King Ridge Road in Cazadero, which is considered one of the most challenging sections of the 100-mile route. Some riders suffered broken collar bones and clavicles, Baxman said.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi ?

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