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Cyclist who died while competing in Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race is identified

Christopher Wood’s death marks second-ever fatality in event history
Leadville is pictured on May 7. (Andy Colwell/Special to The Colorado Sun)

A man who died in a crash a few miles from the finish line at the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race in August suffered blunt force injuries to his chest, according to a recently released autopsy report.

Christopher Wood, 47, died of injuries including tears in the veins that carry blood to the heart, bruises to the heart muscles and eight fractured ribs, according to the report released by the Lake County Coroner’s Office.

He was potentially on track to finish in under nine hours, a feat reserved for top athletes, who are feted with a silver and gold belt buckle.

Wood, a married father of one daughter, had a long career with UPS, according to an online obituary. It also identified him as a former Navy petty officer 2nd class who served as an intelligence specialist.

“He enjoyed life to the fullest and was always ready for an adventure. He always wanted others to join in on the excitement of his next outdoor adventure, especially his recent passion for mountain biking,” the obituary said. “Chris’ family and friends will miss him more than words can say.”

Several racers said Wood died while biking downhill during the Aug. 14 race, possibly from injuries suffered in a high-speed crash or a medical incident that happened while he was pedaling.

Al Thresher, who was the first person to discover Wood after the crash, saw Wood’s teal bike 5 feet from the trail, near the top of a long, steady incline, known as St. Keven’s.

“For all of the riders, you spent all day climbing,” Thresher told The Colorado Sun. “By the time you reach the top of St. Keven’s, it’s kind of like you’re finished. You’ve just got to make it down this hill and roll to the finish.”

He described the section of the course where he found Wood as one of the easier parts of the course because of the terrain, which was less rocky than other parts. Even so, the altitude sets the race apart from others.

“The race starts at 10,000 feet, so the altitude is already risky for some people, if not everyone,” he said.

Thresher said he rushed toward Wood and began to yell, asking if he was OK, and checked for his pulse. He felt nothing. Shortly after, a second rider arrived and the two took turns giving Wood chest compressions.

A third rider, who worked as an ER doctor, also stopped to help, Thresher said.

“I was flying because at that point in the race and I think a lot of riders are – they are getting real close to that nine hours, to that big buckle. I think at that point, people are really focused,” he said. “Riders are usually spread out, so there’s not normally clumps of riders that are together at that point in the race.”

Paramedics arrived about 30 minutes from when he first spotted Wood’s body, Thresher said.

“The tricky part is that they’re having to drive up the part of the course where all of the riders are descending, so that made it, I am sure, difficult,” he said.

Alexander Krieg, Lake County Coroner, refused to release Wood’s name or any details about the crash before the release of the report. Wood’s autopsy, which was obtained through a public records request, showed that the cyclist also had several bruises to his arms and legs.

A spokesman for the race organizer declined to comment on Wood’s injuries.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the athlete’s family and friends during this difficult time,” said Jordan Titus, spokesman for the race owner Life Time, in an emailed statement in August.

Attempts to reach Wood’s family were unsuccessful.

Wood’s death marks the second fatality in the race’s 38-year history.

In 2015, veteran cyclist Scott Ellis died of an apparent heart attack during the race. Ellis, 55, was climbing the grueling Powerline section of the course around mile 80 when he collapsed.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.