Community Sports

His plans for Tour de Whatcom’s Century Ride hit the pavement in 2015, but he’s back

With Mt. Baker in the background, riders head to the first stop during the 2011 Tour de Whatcom. This year’s ride will be held Saturday, July 23.
With Mt. Baker in the background, riders head to the first stop during the 2011 Tour de Whatcom. This year’s ride will be held Saturday, July 23. The Bellingham Herald

After a crash just two days before the 2015 Tour de Whatcom, Don Kurtis is determined to finally ride in the event he’s helped direct for 10 years when Whatcom County’s biggest organized ride is run on Saturday, July 23.

When Whatcom Events took over the ride from tour coordinator Todd Williams about five years ago, Kurtis took a step back from organizing the ride. Kurtis,59, decided he wanted to participate in the 100-mile circuit that showcases Mount Baker, Lake Whatcom and the Puget Sound. An avid biker, he has done many century rides, including the first Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic in 1979.

The Thursday before last year’s ride, he went on a 25-mile spin, and half a mile before he finished, Kurtis crashed and hit the pavement. He ended up breaking multiple vertebrae in his back, injuring his hip and suffering a concussion. Kurtis said it’s the most banged up he’s been in his life.

“I hit the pavement and I was like, ‘Man this is not good,’” he said.

Kurtis was whisked to the hospital, where a few hours later he remembers wondering where his wife, Kris, was. No one at the hospital had called her. When Kurtis finally spoke to her and told her he was at the hospital, she said she figured when he didn’t come home for dinner that it was so beautiful out that he just kept riding.

Kurtis spent the next few days in the hospital and missed the ride for the first time.

When he went back to work as the vice president and general manager of Cascade Radio Group, he said could only be in his office for an hour before he would have to go home for three hours and then come back.

“I remember being dropped off at work and walking to my desk and breaking out in a sweat by the time I got there,” Kurtis said.

Kurtis spent the past year recovering from the crash and said he feels 80 percent healthy. Because of this, he’ll be attempting the 44-mile ride, which would still be longest ride he’s taken since his accident.

“I can ride my bike until I can’t ride my bike,” Kurtis said. “I’ve worked harder this past year than I’ve ever worked in my life for what looks like less results, because I’m still not back to where I was.”

Kurtis was the strength and conditioning coach at Sehome High School for 11 years and is a certified personal trainer. The hardest part for him, he said, has been the rehab process.

“I’ve always been very physically active, and so there were times when it was very frustrating because in my mind things should happen quicker than they would. It’s been hard,” Kurtis said. “One of the first things I asked when working with the therapist was when I would be able to get back on the bike.”

If all goes well, Kurtis said he plans on doing the 100-mile ride next year.

“I’m gonna be there at 6 a.m. and when the 44 milers tee up, I’m gonna be right there with them and we’ll see how it goes,” Kurtis said.

Tour de Whatcom

When: Saturday, July 23

Start and finish lines: Boundary Bay Brewery, 1107 Railroad Ave, Bellingham

Century ride (100 miles): 7:30 a.m. to noon

Metric century ride (62 miles): 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

44 miles: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

22 miles: 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Registration: Walk-up registration is open, with prices varying between $85 to $65 for single riders