#5 Tour de Big Bear

Cyclists Experience Hyperthermia Incident 

   E T Russell ____ Early Saturday August 2nd morning, the Tour de Big Bear was off to a great start with a race of pro-cyclists peddling their competitive sport uphill in the San Bernardino Mountains. Approximately 2000 cyclists enrolled in the 5th Annual Tour de Big Bear and were present for the endurance races. Many of them were repeat highly-qualified athletes who had acclimated to the high altitude environment.   

A chain of events began with truck drivers on the Interstate 10 being blinded by blowing sand. High wind-storms along I-40 caused chain reaction collisions with at least 10 semi-trucks and four autos involved in the incident. Reports were that the incident resulted in nine people injured but none were critical. Caltrans closed the interstate route in both directions near Fort Katie for several hours to clear the wreckage. The incident caused a delay in traffic that had the Big Bear Valley as their destination and allowing cyclists to travel safely, too.  

The unusual ‘El Nino’ stormy weather challenged the event workers, participants and their support teams attempting to prepare the athletes for the unpredictable. Weather in the San Bernardino valley and Redlands was in the high temperatures; but as travelers approached the mountains, temps lowered and thunder and lightning storms were intermittent throughout the weekend. 

Not to mention the grueling physical efforts the cyclists’ bodies endure but the added temperamental weather made Saturday’s race a difficult one to complete for some of them. Before noon there were several reports of single cyclists experiencing symptoms related to hypothermia that were dealt with on individual basis. Soon the number of complaints grew, causing a greater concern for their safety.

The Tour’s climb is something the cyclist’s teams do their best to prepare ahead of time, as well as possible. Water stations are strategically located along the routes that also provide some shelter, energy snacks, etc. The Big Bear Pilots Association manned the aid station at Onyx Summit. At that site, it was reported that thunder, lightning and rain was heavy and consistent for about five hours, with visibility at about 25 feet.  

Many people were experiencing various states of hypothermia. By 12:40 P.M. medical aid calls went out requesting assistance for a ‘mass causality incident’.  Big Bear EMT’s & FireFighters, San Bernardino County Fire and other emergency personnel responded quickly to alerts of Tour de Big Bear cyclists dropping out of the race in the Barton Flats area on State Route 38. There were some forty patients treated, with no serious injuries. Some of them called ‘time-out’ and were transported; while others injured cyclists had their bikes transported to the Village of Big Bear Lake either by private vehicles or on a truck board.

The Tour de Big Bear over all was a success in many ways, in spite of the storm’s hesitation. The restaurants, resorts and businesses were busy with visitors and welcome the event to schedule in the future.