Roy Wallack’s Mountain Bike Crash and Death: How It Happened

Riding buddy Andy Petranek tells the story of Wallack's last ride and downhill crash

(Above: Journalist Roy Wallack, in a photo he shared of himself a few years ago on social media.)

Roy Wallack’s friend and riding buddy, Andy Petranek, shared his first-person account of what happened in Point Mugu State Park, where journalist Roy Wallack died after a mountain bike crash  on Saturday morning, December 19th.  Here is what Petranek shared on Wallack’s Facebook page on Sunday:

“I was with Roy yesterday when he passed. He joined our informal “Over 40 Mountain Bike Team” (a “for fun” club, really… but that is an entirely different matter) ride up at Sycamore Canyon. There were 9 of us on the ride.

I was actually quite surprised to get his text at 7:30am Saturday morning, “I’m here!” As we had left him showing up very informal… with the last communication being, “I might come up.” He had been rehabbing his knee from ACL surgery since June… and this would be his 4th ride back since the surgery.
“As you can see from the pictures, it was a beautiful morning for a ride… and Roy was in classic Roy form… running attire, running shoes, mismatched flat pedals (one that looked like it was off of a bike from Target), and of course, his ever-present fanny pack.
“There was never any indication that anything was wrong… we did the Overlook hill climb and rode straight back toward the back entrance of Sycamore to the top of Guadalasca. We stopped there for a couple minutes. Roy had ridden in Sycamore Canyon numerous times, but it had been a LONG time since his last time and I wanted to give him a preview of what was to come.
“We headed down the singletrack switchbacks. Roy was 3rd or 4th in line, but was riding fairly slowly and allowed a few of us to pass. At the time of the accident, he was 7th in our group.
As many of you know who are mountain bikers, when you’re descending a singletrack, especially one like Guadalasca, rarely are you close enough to the rider in front of you to see him/her, and this was the case when the accident/crash occurred – no one actually witnessed it.
“The other riders and I that were ahead of Roy on the downhill, got to the bottom, and stopped to wait for the others. We had no idea what had happened until minutes later when we got a text that they had called 911.
“The other riders in our group came up on him first, probably within 30 seconds of the crash, and began CPR. However the crash had happened, it was bad… his helmet was cracked in 5 places. Between us and another group of mountain bikers that included a cardiologist and EMT, we administered 45 minutes of continuous CPR. When the chopper arrived with the air medics… they too, did everything they could. But in spite of all the efforts of EVERYONE there, Roy passed.
“I have so much gratitude for the combined efforts of everyone involved to try to save him… riders from our group, some who knew Roy, others who didn’t, riders from another group who stayed out on the trail with us for over an hour to help by simply being there. Riders who never knew Roy, who I’ve never met, and who I might never see or run into again. THANK YOU EVERYONE… ALL OF YOU, SO MUCH.
“We did our best to try to piece together what MIGHT have happened. There was no evidence on that section of the trail of any bump, rock, rut, gully, root, or anything… that would have knocked Roy off his bike to leave him in the state or position in which we found him – especially for a rider with the skill and experience Roy had.
“One thing we speculated… that Roy, perhaps, had some sort of cardiac event before crashing that actually caused the crash. But this is total speculation… in all honesty, we have absolutely no idea what really happened – and might not ever (we hope to find out more once the medical examiner completes the investigation).
“The last part of the ride was challenging and surreal… to keep our heads together and to make it back to our cars without incident. We arrived safely, but were all shaken, and forever changed as a result.

If nothing else, I’d like you all to know this – Roy was fully engaged, absolutely doing what he loved right up to the very end, on a spectacular day, with a group of friends and new acquaintances. He was smiling, joking, taking pictures, writing notes… happy-go-lucky as usual. Saying that he was in his element is a huge understatement.
“He didn’t suffer at all, and went out with a bang… and if you ask me, if you’re going to go, which we all are someday, it is EXACTLY the way you might want to if you were a guy like Roy.” —Andy Petranek, via Facebook
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