Annandale, VA — As many of you are aware, there was an accident at last night’s Wednesday’s at Wakefield race. Several riders were swept away by the current in a flooded stream crossing and one was seriously injured. We were the victim of a unique flash-flood that probably was elevated due to the recent changes in drainage from the Route 495 renovation. As fellow racers and the club responsible for this event, we are deeply concerned and upset about this incident and are carefully considering how to best proceed in the future to protect rider safety and the integrity of our trails.
We did not take our decision to hold the race yesterday lightly. Prior to each Wednesday’s event, we begin assessing the trail conditions several days out, with inspections of the trail system during the day before the start of the race. The Potomac Velo Club president and volunteers communicate with other local trail experts to make a decision about whether the races can be safely held without damage to the trails. We are riders just like you and care very much about protecting our trails and the public’s willingness to welcome us and our bikes in area parks. PVC volunteers spend time before, during, and after the W@W race series working to maintain the trails and ensure we don’t cause any lasting damage. When we decided to hold the race last night, it was with this care and caution in mind. When conditions deteriorated during the race we were caught off guard.
The rainfall that began after the 5:55pm race started was unexpected, but when we reviewed the satellite weather map, it appeared we were nearly at the end of that inclement pattern. The rain passed and sunny skies returned, so the race proceeded as planned. Prior to the start of the 6:55pmrace, satellite weather maps did not indicate any impending rain, so we started that race as well. The rapid downpour that began shortly thereafter came as a total surprise, and we initiated discussions of stopping the race at that point. However, the stream water levels rose very quickly and we were not aware of it in time to clear all of the racers off the course. Water levels in the streams escalated rapidly and several racers were caught up at a crossing and swept away.
Thanks to the efforts of fellow racers, volunteers, and emergency personnel, the injured racers were rescued and received medical care. One racer was hurt badly, but we talked to her today and she is positive, mending well, and very appreciative of those who helped her. To everybody who stepped in to help – thank you. This sport is a beautiful one in that your competitors are also your friends and allies in times of need. We are so grateful to all of the volunteers and riders who stepped in to help last night.
Going forward, we are going to be more proactive about canceling and rescheduling the Wednesday races to ensure the safety of all and the continuing integrity of the trails. While we understand that last minute cancellations can be a hassle, it will be better for racers, the state of the trails, and the perception of the public that mountain bikers do care about protecting the parks. Rain dates are set to guarantee that we are still able to hold the full series of four races and we will use those dates as needed. Please check the PVC website and/or Facebook page for up-to-date information about race status.
PVC is also using this experience to implement new measures so we are better prepared in the future to respond to unexpected events. We just invested in radios, instead of just relying on cell phones, so our volunteers around the course, at registration, and at the finish line can communicate quickly and take action immediately as needed. We will also implement more marshals at the right locations around the course going forward and are calling for more volunteers to make this feasible. We’ll be at Wakefield at 7am tomorrow, beginning trail work, and then participating in a full trail day on Sunday. If you have other suggestions for how we can improve these races and better ensure rider safety and trail maintenance, please share – we are all part of the same community looking to have fun while racing our bikes safely.
Thank you again to everybody who helped last night and best wishes for a quick return to health to those impacted by last night’s accident. We hope to see you all again at future races and appreciate your support as we work to create a better Wednesdays at Wakefield experience for all.
Potomac Velo Club