Wednesday, June 23, 2010
A Spanish cyclist is getting an outpouring of support after a driver hit him in his Race Across America. 36-year-old Diego Ballesteros was part of a relay team that set off from Oceanside, California, and was scheduled to finish in Annapolis, Maryland. The accident cut his trip short, and now he remains in a Wichita hospital, thousands of miles from his home in Spain. So group of Wichita residents is trying to make him feel a little more at home.
"He's in a foreign land and basically by himself," said Bicycle Pedaler Owner Ruth Holliday, who is heading the effort. "This is one of those things that, your heart yearns to help."
A group of Wichita residents is reaching out to Ballesteros, uniting behind a passion for biking.
"We're in Kansas, that's what we do. If you see somebody in need you reach out," said Holliday.
That's exactly what they've done, after Ballesteros' Race Across America was cut short when a 22-year-old driver hit him near the Butler-Sedgwick county line on Highway 254.
"We do everything we can to insure safety on the road by having some follow vehicles and support teams," said Race Across America Race Director Rick Boethling.
But a safety vehicle following Ballesteros had left to prepare for the next cyclist on his team. He was reportedly less than a mile away from finishing his stretch of the race.
"It's pretty tough, he said he likes to talk and visit because it takes his mind off of what his future holds," said Holliday.
His future may be in the hands of doctors, as he remains in the hospital hoping for a way to get back to Spain. His girlfriend and two members of his race support team have been staying in Wichita with him.
"They said, 'Kansas? Wichita? We never though we'd spend any time here,'" said Holliday.
But Wichita bicyclists have rallied around Ballesteros, signing a WSU biking jersey to show support, bringing cards to the hospital, and even offering their homes up for visitors to stay.
"They are just amazed at the outreach of people and generosity, and they said when they come back they're going to visit Wichita," said Holliday.
Race Across America organizers say Ballesteros' team did finish the race, helping raise more than $1.5 million for charity. Ballesteros is now listed in fair condition at Wesley. He was airlifted to the hospital in critical condition the night of the accident one week ago.