- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Friends of a 30-year-old man who recently died in a Kansas City bicycle race say he was tenacious, but humble.

Casey Saunders, of St. Louis, died Sunday after he crashed into a metal barrier at the Tour of Kansas City bicycle race, which he had competed in before, The Kansas City Star reported (https://bit.ly/2si8bty ).

Saunders was racing in the Criterium event, a tight course less than a mile long in which elite racers run their laps bending sharp turns on closed city streets. His race ended with the crash, though it’s unclear exactly what happened.

“It was shocking,” said Abby Schubach, who was watching from her apartment window. “People were running around, surrounding him.”

Emergency crews arrived, but Saunders died at the scene.

Saunders’ coach on the Dogfish Racing Team, John Merli, said he was best known for his finishing sprints.

“He was what we call an honest racer,” he said. “He was tenacious but humble.”

Saunders’ friend and team partner, Scott Ogilvie, said he sometimes helped set him up for his finishes.

“He was never out of control, reckless or putting himself in a dangerous position,” Ogilvie wrote in a Facebook post. “There are times when cyclists have tunnel vision and ride in a way that ignores the safety of other riders, but that was never, ever Casey.”

Saunders also was an employee at Big Shark Bicycle Co. His boss and friend Mike Weiss recognized the dangers that come with speed.

“The sport is exhilarating,” Weiss said. “It is a strange combination of tactics, physicality and skill. There are a lot of rewards in a lifestyle that challenges and gives achievement. It’s a life worth living.”

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com

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