A prominent River Falls man was seriously injured Sunday in a bike racing incident that will claim the life of a retired Eau Claire teacher.
Dan Woll, 65, River Falls, former superintendent in the St. Croix Central and Menomonie school districts, saw Cheri Uelmen’s crash and flipped his own bicycle, according to the Eau Claire Leader Telegram. They were the only two injured.
Uelmen, 58, who was airlifted to a Mayo hospital, received a serious head wound, broken neck and lower back injury. She was paralyzed, had irreversible brain damage and is being taken off life support, according to her CaringBridge website.
Woll had two cracked ribs, a punctured lung and a broken finger.
The two were riding in a 21-mile bike race Sunday morning as part of the Cleghorn Harvest Fest in the town of Pleasant Valley, Eau Claire County. The race, sponsored by the Cleghorn Lions Club, is the last in the WiSport Racing Series racing season.
The accident occurred 1.5 miles into the race, according to a CaringBridge post, which said that another cyclist fell ahead of Uelmen. She was not able to get around the person, flew over her handlebars and landed on her face.
Woll, a veteran biker, told the Leader-Telegram that racers started slow but were gaining speeds of 20 mph or more when the crash occurred.
He said he saw “a sort of ripple in the pack” and then saw Uelmen’s bike cartwheel. Her bike went sideways and that flipped him.
Woll said he didn’t know Uelmen well but could tell she was a strong rider.
Eau Claire County deputies and the town fire department were called at 11:21 a.m. to the scene of the crash at the intersection of Hillview and Chickadee roads in Cleghorn.
According to an entry posted by a family member late Monday, Uelmen will be taken off life support today and her organs and tissue will be donated to as many as 72 people.
“Because Cheri is in such amazing shape and was so healthy, every organ and lots of tissue in her body is going to be able to help someone else,” wrote Emi Uelmen.
“It is so hard and so sad for us to think about letting Cheri go, but to know that through this she will be helping so many people allows us to know that Cheri will definitely be living on.
“We are pretty sure whoever gets her lungs will become a dynamite cross country skier and whoever gets her heart will be the same loving and caring person that she was.”