Bicyclists who participated in the Criterium bicycle race Saturday are at a loss to explain why anyone would place thumb tacks along the race route in downtown Bloomington. The tacks caused flat tires that resulted in an eight-bike pile-up that sent five injured cyclists to the emergency room.
Mayor Tari Renner has asked Bloomington police to investigate.
Police so far have no suspects and said they found no helpful information on downtown surveillance cameras. Authorities are seeking to interview anyone who may have information about the incident. Police declined a request for an interview.
"My first reaction is what in the world would possess someone to do something like this, hurting someone maybe seriously that you have no idea who it might even be? I'm just shocked," Renner said.
Tom Keller, a race participant, said cyclists began experiencing flat tires traveling northbound on Main Street and as they turned onto Monroe. He said 30 to 40 tacks were later found strewn near the Six Strings Bar at Mulberry and Center Streets and at other locations.
"I was the second person to go down," Keller said. "The guy in front of me, we turned off of northbound Main onto Monroe and he crashed in front of me. When I went to cut inside to avoid him my tires went instantly flat and I crashed as well."
Keller said he suspected the tacks were placed on the street sometime during the latter part of the race because other cyclists had ridden the same streets earlier without incident.
He said he suffered injuries to his elbows and knees, and that both bike tires were flat.
"At first I was very upset, and now it's more of a general confusion, not really understanding who are the people involved and what they hoped to accomplish by this," Keller said.
"Someone who might have thought it was just a funny prank not realizing it wouldn't cause flats to people riding at two miles an hour, but people doing 20 to 30 miles an hour," he added.
Keller said some residents and downtown business owners have complained about the race because of street closures during approximately eight hours of peak weekend shopping.
The event was more business-friendly than in the past. Renner allowed bars and restaurants for the first time to sell beer and other alcoholic beverages to bystanders for consumption along the race route after they had screened and given wrist bands to wear.
Keller said cyclists will likely demand additional security at future races.
"Unfortunately they are going to need even more volunteers and more security and so it's going to put on more stress and pressure, and there is going to be general concern from the racers. I imagine a lot of those racers were very concerned after seeing all the damage that was done," Keller said.
In addition to the physical injuries they suffered, the cyclists now face costly bike repairs. Keller said bikes used in races like the Criterium generally cost anywhere from $1,000 to $9,000
Keller said he believes bicyclists are sometimes unfairly singled out. "It's interesting why it's such an issue with cyclists and cycling races when it seems like runners in 5K races and everything else that close roads are all over and they are not met with these issues," Keller said.
This is the second incident involving an apparent prank that turned more serious in downtown Bloomington. In April, someone smeared a public bench with a greasy black substance. The clothing of a homeless man and two female shoppers were damaged in that incident. Police were unable to make an arrest.
Keller says he hopes police this time will find those who responsible and hold them accountable for the property damage and physical injuries caused.