We had just passed sixty miles. The
ride was a gritty reality now, four tired men battling
a headwind on the way to an eighty mile ride at a business-like
Tom Markley’s phone began to
ring in his jersey pocket. When a cyclist’s cell
phone begins to ring during a ride it is either an annoyance
or an emergency. This was an emergency. Tom’s wife,
Lisa, was on the other line. She was frantic.
“A cyclist has been killed at
Hines and Inkster…. Where are you guys?”
We were approximately ten miles west
of that area on Hines just leaving Northville headed east
at 20 mph. This was the beginning of Black Sunday: April
10, 2005. By the end of today, nine people, including
three cyclists, would be injured in accidents in our area,
one fatally. It is a stark wake-up call to the lethal
and unforgiving nature of road cycling.
Earlier in the ride we were a group
of eight that had been cut down to four by pace, distance
and the better judgment of the four men with greater restraint
than I. I was out to go hard and long, 80 miles. They
wanted a shorter ride with breakfast after. As it turns
out, that decision may have been made within three minutes
of ending their lives.
The four men who started toward Ann
Arbor with our group decided to turn right, or north,
on Beck road and ride to Hines Drive where they would
then loop back toward Dearborn for a late breakfast across
from the bike shop.
In the odd convergence of time, chance
and lethal happenstance three motorcycles, a jeep and
a bicycle collided in one of the most bizarre chain reaction
accidents I have ever heard of. That was only the tip
of what was to occur on that deadly day. That Black Sunday.
Tom Markley’s Nextel connection
was bad and the wind made it difficult to hear Lisa. We
could tell by her voice that she was upset. Her words
came through the static and wind noise in frantic tones.
We could only pick out pieces of what she was saying.
One dead….. Paul’s wife….. “
Tom calmed her down. I told him to
ask her where she got the information from. She told him
Paul’s wife had phoned- that he (Paul) had just
passed the accident scene and phoned her to recount it
in gruesome detail. Wreckage, bodies, blood.
“Tom, hang up and call Aderhold,
now…” I told Markley.
It was almost two years ago to the
week that we lost our friend Michael R. Rabe in a bizarre
accident. He went missing for nearly 18 hours, only to
turn up as a John Doe, the victim of a drunk driver on
the way home from my store on his bike. He had no identification
on him. It took police nearly a day to identify his body.
This was starting to feel ominously familiar.
I stood there waiting for Tom’s
phone to be answered at Mike Aderhold‘s house. I
wondered what would happen if his wife answered and said,
innocently, that Mike had not returned from his ride yet.
What would we tell her? We didn’t know anything.
I had already begun my emotional damage control drill.
Convincing myself that I could survive losing another
Suddenly riding a bicycle began to
feel a lot like war. We were on the radio with a bad connection
trying to find out who was killed. We were trying to determine
the position of the accident relative to ours. We were
trying to assess the threat level relative to us. We were
making a plan to move to the site of the incident. What
started out as a nice training ride on a beautiful morning
was becoming much too serious.
Tom quickly hung up with Lisa after
calming her down. Tom Markley is an experienced racer
and a calm man. He knew what to say and how to say it.
The moment he hung up he dialed Mike Aderhold’s
phone number and I took a deep breath. The very same breath
I took two years earlier after hanging up the phone with
Ray Dybowski who told me, “Rabe never showed up
this morning, we have a report of a cyclist killed on
Aderhold, to my most immense relief,
picked up the phone in his relaxed monotone. It felt like
a freight train had been lifted off my shoulders. My concern
immediately shifter to Mario.
“Hey, did Mario drive his truck
to the shop this morning or ride?”
Sometimes our friend Mario rides his
bike up Hines drive to the store to start a ride, other
times he drives his truck to the shop with his bike in
Mikey said he clearly remembered Mario’s
truck not being at the shop. He had rode his bike to the
shop. That meant he rode it home. Tom asked Aderhold if
Mario made it home OK and Aderhold said, “Yeah,
we had already passed the accident…”
Satisfied that all the members of
our team were accounted for we remounted and started to
ride to the accident scene. It was on our route home along
Hines Drive. What we didn’t know was that all our
numbers really weren’t accounted for, and before
the day was over we would suffer another tragic loss in
the local cycling community and nearly lose another.
The first thing we saw was a fire
truck. Then wreckage. Lots of wreckage.
Small pieces of jagged plastic and metal were flung for
hundreds of feet around the pavement. The road was closed.
Yellow accident tape wiggled in the breeze. To the left,
a motorcycle, or the largest fragment of a motorcycle,
was lodged nearly upright in what remained of a wooden
fence. A pile of wreckage lay in the center of the road
surrounded by a gruesome stain on the pavement. The remnants
of hasty medical aid blew in the wind. As we rode closer
and jumped across the grass to the bike path we saw the
pile of wreckage was roughly half of a motorcycle. The
back half. The front had disintegrated. On the shoulder
was the contorted, tortured cadaver of a road bicycle,
completely mangled, one wheel entirely gone with tattered
spokes hanging from the hub in a mangled rear triangle,
the other wheel still clamped to the broken fork and bent
at wild angles. In a field a hundred yards away was a
black Jeep Liberty. The front left tire was gone, the
floor board of the driver’s side was exploded inward
and upward, both axles were broken and the remaining wheels
tilted at random cambers. The vehicle appeared to be deposited
randomly in the field, as though the explosion had lifted
it up and set it down in the field.
The scene had the look and feel of
a war zone. Shattered glass, mangled vehicles, crackling
radios on Policeman’s hips, blood on the pavement,
and most of all, confusion. I spoke briefly with a polite
Sheriff who told me the cyclist had survived but likely
had two broken ankles. He said he thought the guy on the
first motorcycle “Probably didn’t make it”.
I recognized the bicycle. It belonged to one of our customers.
It was in the shop just a week ago for a tune-up. His
family was there. He had called them on his cell phone
immediately after the accident and they drove to the scene.
I spoke with them briefly. He was transported, along with
the other victims, to an emergency medical facility.
We remounted our bikes and in under
two minutes were back to our smooth but tired rotating
pace line at 20 mph into a stiff headwind.
Predictably, the accident has been
the subject of much conversation today, the day after.
It was on the news, and conflicting reports suggest one
person died, some say no one died. Yahoo! News carried
the story and reported seven victims injured in the accident.
It said three motorcycles, a Jeep and a bicycle were involved.
The report was lean on details.
I spoke with a number of people who
saw the accident scene. Everybody has their own version
of what happened. One version says a man on a motorcycle
had a heart attack and veered into oncoming traffic. Another
said that the driver of the Jeep had a heart attack. The
Sheriff told me the driver of the Jeep said the sun was
in their eyes. There was no certainty over what caused
the accident or even how it unfolded- who hit who, what
In the ensuing conversation about
the accident Mike Aderhold, Mario and Pierre said they
arrived at the scene between 3 and 5 minutes after they
thought the accident may have occurred. Emergency services
had not yet arrived, but they heard sirens in the distance.
Mario narrated what he saw:
The recounting of the scene went pretty
much like that. It was bad, no one knew what happened,
no one wanted to look.
In a bizarre twist another accident,
even more horrible, unfolded hours later near 8:00 PM
several miles to the west and north. A group of road cyclists
including D&D Bicycles Northville Store Manager Dan
Foster was struck by a Mustang traveling at high speed.
Some reports indicate the vehicle had run a stop sign.
Dan’s riding companion, 17-year-old Todd Schoenheide
of Northville High School did not survive. Schoenheide
was riding second position in a three man pace line of
road cyclists when the impact occurred. Dan Foster, third
in line according to reports, narrowly missed being killed
and was transported to St. Mary‘s hospital with
a serious hand injury.
The vehicle did not stop immediately
but later lost control and went into a ditch. Deputies
told reporters they had reason to believe the vehicle
was traveling well in excess of posted speed limits. One
news agency reported it ran a stop sign at “between
70 and 100 mph” and hit Todd Schoenheide directly
and continued down the road coming to rest in a ditch.
Todd likely had no idea what hit him. The passing of this
young life was instantaneous. Dan Foster, a polite, quiet,
poised and hard working cyclist who has been in the industry
all his life and plans to be married this fall, will carry
this awful experience with him from now on. I know Dan
very well and have for 20 years. In the small, local road
cycling community Dan and I worked together at Bob Akers’
International Bike Shop years ago. Coincidentally, Bob
Akers, owner of International Bike Shop, was part of the
four man group that turned early from our ride that day.
Bob is one of Michigan’s most experienced riders,
a top track, tandem, cyclocross and road rider with a
long and versatile history in the bike industry as the
owner of International Bike Shop in Garden City. In a
further reminder of the close knit nature of the cycling
community, Todd Schoenheide was the nephew of Bill Rehor,
the area Bell Sports sales rep. Todd worked for Don Moore,
the long time owner and founder of D&D Bicycles.
It is an understatement to say that
Todd Schoenheide’s death is a tragedy. That is obvious.
It is up to us to heed this horrific warning. Schoenheide
was, in actual fact, a model young man. Fine student and
athlete, excellent employee of Don Moore and Dan Foster
at D&D Northville. Dan Foster once told me that the
reason he enjoyed working at D&D Northville was because
of his crew, including Todd. I know everyone joins me
in wishing Dan a speedy recovery and whatever peace he
can find in coming to grips with nearly losing his life
by a bike length and still losing one of his friends.
So this past Sunday, April 10th, 2005
was a lethal reminder of how incredibly dangerous our
sport is. It was a wake-up call that we, as road cyclists,
are only alive to ride again by the randomness of time
and chance. That this randomness can turn against us fatally
in an instant, and does so with sobering regularity and
People often ask me if this sport
is dangerous, and I never mince words. I tell them it
is extremely dangerous. I have traveled to seven continents,
survived parachute malfunctions, flown in rickety airplanes
and helicopters and swam with sharks. I’ve climbed
the highest mountains on three continents and seen avalanches
that would bury a five story building and crevasses that
would swallow a 747. I’ve sailed in ships on the
roughest sea in the world hopelessly out of reach of rescue.
But I have never done anything as
dangerous, lethal, random and defenseless as setting my
tires on the pavement and clipping into my pedals. Today,
Black Sunday, is a reminder of that. But truthfully, I
Black Sunday, April 10, 2005: One
dead, eight wounded and lives inexorably altered from
Please never forget Todd Schoenheide
and how dangerous our sport truly is.