(This is probably the most personal post we’ve ever done, please allow us a moment to unload)
We do a lot of hero worshiping these days. famous sports figures, TV and movie personalities, the occasional politician but these aren’t the people who really keep our individual worlds turning. Like the multiple pedal strokes it takes to keep our wheels spinning and our bikes moving forward, there are people who make things work in our lives. Laura Wooldridge helped turn the cranks to make our world go around.
Saturday night Lisa and I had dinner with the CARVE Mountain Bike Team at Chelsea’s in Eureka Springs. During the discussion, we were asked how we met Laura. While we’re sure it was either at a mountain bike race or some local bike ride we were on or covering, our guts told us that we had always known her. She and her husband John have become that much a part of our lives. Laura, a CARVE Team racer/rider, passed away earlier in the day. While pre-riding the cross country course of the Eureka Springs Fat Tire Festival, Laura fell. In what would normally be the kind of crash any one of us could have, on any given day, and walked away from with a few scrapes and bruises, something horrible happened. Laura’s injuries were serious enough to require a MedEvac chopper. On the way to the hospital, Laura succumbed to her injuries.
Laura was an avid rider for the past 3 1/2 years and had worked her way up to start racing in category 1, the fast group. Although a highly skilled rider, her accomplishments in mountain bike racing are overshadowed by her unfaltering kindness. Without ever putting her wheel on the starting line of a mountain bike race, Laura was a hero. She was passionate about mountain biking and much of that passion focused on getting more women involved in the sport. She was a strong believer in giving back to a community that shared her passion and she was perfect for this calling.
Probably one of the reasons for feeling like we have always known her was that she was such an easy friend. Her rapport with people made them feel like life long friends. She eagerly led women’s beginner mountain bike rides on Pfeifer Loop and as her girls progressed she would invite them along for more challenging rides, pretty soon many of these women started showing up at races. The quote below is taken from an article Laura wrote for Arkansas Outside last Summer. We encourage you to read it.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling of being out there with someone just starting out and passing through a technical section, and when they’re riding through hearing their struggle, hearing them say, “I think I’m going to do this!”, then the follow up “WhooHOO!!” after they’ve passed through. It’s awesome!!! There’s been a few times I’ve wanted to jump off my bike and give high fives in excitement but that would interrupt an awesome ride.” – Laura Wooldridge (read the entire story)
Laura was always positive, not in an -in your face, let’s all be happy- way but in a much more constructive way. She smiled a lot, she made sure you were noticed, if you were slow, she waited for you, if you were unsure of yourself, she encouraged you. She was a shining example of friendship. She was selfless with her time and energy, especially when it came to women and cycling. She was infinitely proud of her husband and sons, reveling in their accomplishments. We will miss riding with her and stopping to look at deer, cool trees, or pretty flowers. She rarely missed an opportunity to soak in the beauty around her and it radiated back out of her. We are left with a heavy heart and the feeling that we owe a debt that we cannot possibly repay. Her legacy lives on each time one of those who loved her or were encouraged by her, touch their tires to the dirt. Each person who knew Laura is now missing that unique ray of sunshine that only she could bring. The cycling community at large now has a Laura shaped hole that seems impossible to fill.
There have already been a couple of bike rides to celebrate her life and we feel certain that the local cycling community will continue to help her family in any way they can. Memorials and other tributes will be forthcoming and we will try to keep everyone informed about them, but for now, the best way we can think of to remember her is just to be there for others. Take a new cyclist out for a ride, attend some beginner rides to help new cyclists get their start. If you’re not a cyclist just share your passion, whatever it may be. Do what Laura would be doing today if this terrible tragedy had never happened, be a friend. Strive to Live Like Laura.
We are going to miss our hero, our friend.