Jeff Noffsinger had ridden Rist Canyon hundreds of times before. In fact, the Audi Cycling team rider had just set a new personal best up the steep climb on his May 23 ride with teammate Stuart Thomas.
Everything went wrong on the way down Ford Hill.
Noffsinger’s Pinarello Dogma started to speed wobble as he reached 57 mph. The bike shimmied back and forth, and normally, Noffsinger is able to clinch his knees on the top of his front tube to reduce the shimmy, but that wasn’t going to work this time. His body started to shake as he got scared. Noff-singer knew he was going to crash.
The 41-year-old rider went down hard into the ditch on the right side of the road, crushing the backside of his white helmet, still stained today by blood and dirt. He has three stitches in the back of his head from the collision and wears a back brace to support a fractured vertebrae and broken rib. He’ll be in the brace for two months.
“I look at that and know the helmet is a reason I’m alive and walking today,” Noffsinger said.
This week, Noffsinger received a new Giro helmet, courtesy of Greg Thornton at proVelo Bicycles, as part of a new program available for injured Northern Colorado racers.
Noffsinger is the first beneficiary of Your Group Ride’s Wounded Rider Program.
Created by Dan Porter — manager of the Fort Collins cycling website — the Wounded Rider Program supplies local riders with a “crash kit” if a bike accident lands a rider in the hospital. Items in the kit include a new helmet, new sunglasses, a RoadID, Neosporin, Tegaderm, bandages, restaurant and massage gift cards, and comfort food, among other items.
Kits can also include car rides if a cyclist is unable to drive. Each kit is customized to the rider, whether they are a young single rider or a masters racer with a family.
Noffsinger arrived home last Tuesday after undergoing back surgery at Medical Center of the Rockies. The next day, he received a visit from First City Cycling Team member Gretchen Potts who delivered the first-ever YGR Wounded Rider Program crash kit.
“I was blown away. I just thought that was so neat for her to bring me all this stuff and know I have the support of this local cycling community,” said Noffsinger, whose girlfriend lives in Boulder and has been able to help with his recovery. “It was very meaningful to me. I got a little emotional.”
Potts got emotional, too.
She said they both shed tears in Noffsinger’s living room as she pulled out the items in the kit, which included bags of peanut M&Ms, boxes of Hot Tamales and Junior Mints, gift cards to Backcountry Provisions and Tokyo Joe’s, a case of Noosa Yoghurt and Braaap nutrition bars.
“I remember coming home from foot surgery. I was single and by myself, and I thought it’d be nice if someone could do just a little something for me,” said Potts, who directs the Wounded Rider Program. “When I visited Jeff, I thought to myself, ‘This is cool. This is what it should feel like.’ These guys are banged up and hurting; let’s make them feel good. He was going through a lot of emotions, I’m sure, dealing with pain. This just seems like the right thing to do.”
Potts, who is an Army veteran, volunteered to help Porter with the Wounded Rider Program after seeing a rash of bike crashes in Fort Collins sending people to the hospital. Her husband’s father had been killed years ago riding his bike, hit by a distracted driver. Her best friend, Jennifer Garvey, survived after being hit by a drunk driver in 2008.
“All these crashes started to add up, and it was bothering me. I was frustrated. I thought there was something we could do to help these riders who had been in crashes, so I approached Dan,” Potts said.
Turns out, Porter already had the wheels spinning to form the Wounded Rider Program.
Crashes involving local cyclists Stuart Culp, Tim Anderson, Justin Brunner and Porter’s own crash in 2012 contributed to the start of the program, Porter said.
Porter collided with a guardrail descending near Pinewood Reservoir, breaking a bone in his right hand and leaving road rash across his body. He said he spent $150 on Neosporin alone, during his recovery.
Local cyclist and friend Ronny Bush showed up to Porter’s home unannounced and mowed Porter’s lawn so his wife, Sara, wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Other friends brought meals.
“Going through a crash, it affects you not only physically, but emotionally and financially. A trip to the emergency room, medical supplies, physical therapy, it adds up,” Porter said.
Local businesses with ties to cycling jumped at the opportunity to contribute to the program, which is funded for 10 riders. Potts delivered the second crash kit this week to Scott Ruff, a local endurance mountain biker, who broke his jaw riding on the Kokopelli Trail in Fruita last month.
Spex Vision Care donated 10 pair of sunglasses valued at $250 a pop. Tokyo Joe’s donated 10 $30 gift certificates. Jonathan Garcia Massage and Podium Massage donated hourlong massage sessions.
“Getting in an accident, it affects your movement throughout the day. It’s hard to sleep depending on where the wound is. If something is broken, it can take it out of your everyday job. You’re just banged and don’t feel good through the process,” said Jonathan Garcia, who rode for BMC Racing from 2007-10.
“This was a no-brainer. Every little bit helps during the recovery.”
Xplore reporter Stephen Meyers covers the outdoors and recreation for the Coloradoan. Follow him on Twitter @stemeyer or Facebook.com/ meyersreports.
Your Group Ride Wounded Rider Program
• What is it: Created by Dan Porter — manager of the Fort Collins cycling website Your Group Ride — the Wounded Rider Program supplies local riders with a “crash kit” if a bike accident lands a rider in the hospital. Items in the kit include a new helmet, new sunglasses, a RoadID, Neosporin, Tegaderm, bandages, restaurant and massage gift cards and comfort food, among other items.
• Who is eligible: A local rider or racer closely affiliated with the Northern Colorado racing scene, including grass-roots races, and injured badly enough to be sent to the hospital, and/or forced to be temporarily out of work.
• Who sponsors the program: First City Cycling Team; proVelo Bicycles; Spex Optical; RoadID; Backcountry Delicatessen; Tokyo Joe’s; Jon Garcia Massage; Podium Massage; Fast Freddie Apparel; Stuart Thomas Commercial Real Estate; Braaap Nutrition.