Residents along hilly West Brimfield-Jubilee Road said the fatal crash there Saturday during the Proctor Cycling Classic came as no surprise. T
The two-lane Peoria County roadway, they said, is unsafe for both cyclists and pedestrians. Steep, rising hills and narrow lanes create numerous blind spots and contribute to motorists speeding down the road.
"It’s really dangerous," said Tony Klahn, who lives at the crest of one of the hills. "I don’t think they should be allow to ride out there."
Klahn and others said they were saddened by news of the crash and hoped Classic organizers would change the race course and keep riders away from the area.
"Some call it Rollercoaster Road," neighbor Helen Unes said Monday about the sharp rises and falls. "It’s a bad road to have a race on."
The fatal wreck occurred about 9:30 a.m. Saturday when Elizabeth Kobeszka, 24, of Chicago and a competitor collided in the westbound lane. The impact sent Kobeszka into the eastbound lane, where she was struck by an oncoming truck, police reports stated. She was pronounced dead at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center about four hours later.
Steve Wilson, director of communications for the Classic, said Monday that the Peoria Bicycle Club likely will meet this week to discuss the deadly accident — the first in the Classic’s 20-year history — and possible changes to the competition.
"I know all of this is going to be discussed as quickly as possible," he said, adding that cyclists’ wellbeing is an important issue among planners. "They do everything in their power to put on the safest races possible."
Messages left Monday with Greg Springborn, Classic coordinator and president of the Peoria Bicycle Club, were not returned.
Mike Ott, vice president of the Peoria Bicycle Club, said he couldn’t answer direct questions about the wreck because he was out of town over the weekend and was not part of the race committee. He added, though, that the group was "deeply saddened" by the death.
In the aftermath of the fatal crash, some have suggested closing the race course to traffic in the future. Neighbors along the way rejected the idea on Monday, saying the simpler solution is to change the route.
The road, residents said, is no stranger to heavy farm equipment rumbling through or trucks pulling horse trailers to nearby Jubilee College State Park.
"This is a busy road," neighbor Gene Coe stressed from his home.
XXX Racing-AtheltiCo, an amateur racing team and cycling club that counted Kobeszka as a member, devoted much of its monthly meeting Monday night to remembering their fallen teammate and offering grief counseling, according to the group’s Web site.
Kobeszka’s teammate, Beth Christiansen, said Sunday the group likely would discuss asking coordinators at future races to restrict traffic. She said having courses open to traffic makes racing more difficult and dangerous.
"That creates even more problems because (cyclists) try to get around through the center," she said. "That’s exactly what happened here."
Rob Pocock, associate vice president of communications for the Priority Health Grand Cycling Classic, said course plans for a Sept. 8 race in Grand Rapids, Mich., could change because of Kobeszka’s accident. Kobeszka’s sister, Christy McMeanf, works for Pocock.
He said the Michigan race’s original route called for two parking ramps on a corner of the downtown Criterium course to be closed during the race. Now there is talk of leaving one of the ramps open.
"We’ll certainly be re-looking at that based on this," Pocock said.
Aaron Frey can be reached at 686-3214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Frank Radosevich II can be reached at 686-3142 or email@example.com.
BY AARON FREY AND FRANK RADOSEVICH II