The five cyclists who died in a horrific Nevada crash this week were no novices—far from it, in fact. The Las Vegas Review-Journal describes them as "seasoned bicyclists and dedicated athletes" who were key to Southern Nevada's cycling community. "All of them were in the top 10 percent of cyclists in the valley," said Mark Weimer, co-founder of a large Nevada cycling team. "That's why everyone in the bike community knew them." Erin Michelle Ray, 39, Gerrard Suarez Nieva, 41, Michael Todd Murray, 57, Aksoy Ahmet, 48, and Tom Trauger, 57, lost their lives Thursday when an Isuzu box truck rammed into them from behind on the US 95 as they rode with a safety escort vehicle. Another rider, Jerome Ducrocq, was hospitalized in critical condition, and three others were hurt.
Southern Nevada's tight-knit cycling community was left reeling, the Reno Gazette Journal reports. "They were on a retirement ride for one of the community cyclists," says Clay Weeks, who works at a pro cycling shop. "Obviously everybody is super upset and distraught." Authorities are still investigating, but impaired driving appears to be ruled out, and the driver, who was uninjured, is said to be cooperating. But Weeks remains baffled by the dynamics of the crash: "That shoulder on the side of that highway is wide enough to fit three cars," he said. "We don't really know how somebody managed to get that far off the road." One of the unhurt cyclists said they do the same 130-mile ride "every year, no problems. This year was just at the wrong place, at the wrong time." (Read more cycling stories.)