The Davis Double Century was just beginning Saturday as bicyclists headed out onto darkened roads for a 200-mile endurance ride. In an instant, excitement turned to grief.
Ronald Cortez, 50, of Rocklin, was killed just after 5 a.m., when he was hit by a tractor-trailer after he failed to stop at a stop sign just outside Davis at Tremont Road and Sparling Lane, according to the California Highway Patrol.
It’s the first death the Davis Double Century has seen in at least 25 years.
“It was so shocking and so devastating,” said Robin Neuman, co-director of the Double Century. “Yes, there are accidents. But this? This was a first.”
The big rig, traveling at about 55 mph and hauling a set of double trailers, was driven by a 62-year-old Dixon man, the CHP said in a news release.
The truck driver could not stop in time to avoid hitting Cortez, the CHP said.
Cortez had been riding with another bicyclist, who witnessed the incident, Neuman said. Word spread quickly over the next several hours among the nearly 600 participants.
“Everybody has been affected by this,” Neuman said. “We are so sad about it, and our hearts go out to his family, and though we continued on, it was difficult.”
Efforts to locate Cortez’s family members Sunday were unsuccessful.
Sparling Lane was closed for about 21/2 hours after the accident, forcing organizers of the endurance ride to reroute the event, which traverses 200 miles of Yolo, Solano, Napa and Lake counties.
The 46th annual Davis Double Century began early Saturday at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, at the corner of Third and B streets in downtown Davis, with all riders required to be on the course by 5:15 a.m.
All riders had to complete the 200-mile route, which descends through Cache Creek Canyon and Capay Valley and then circles back to downtown Davis, by 1 a.m. Sunday.
Cortez was just beginning the ride when he was killed.
“We all make errors, but some are more devastating than others,” Neuman said. “There is no blame here. Everyone is so devastated by what happened. It’s important as we move forward that we remember safety has always been, and will continue to be, our No. 1 concern.”