SOMERVILLE, NJ - Canadian cyclist Ellen Watters, winner of the 2016 Tour of Somerville Pro Women’s Race, has died after a collision with a car in the province of New Brunswick where she grew up.
Watters, 28, had returned to her hometown from her residence in Ottawa to be with family for the Christmas holiday. She was cycling on a rural roadway when the collision occurred two days prior to Christmas, according to the Royal Mounted Canadian Police.
Watters died in a local hospital four days later.
Before her flight from Ottawa to New Brunswick, Watters posted this message on Instagram:
An early Christmas gift: being an #Altitude
member and not having baggage or bike fees! Thanks @AirCanada and #bikeracing.
Watters and the car involved in the collision were traveling in the same direction; the motorist has been interviewed, and the investigation is continuing, according to the RCMP. No charges have been filed.
Watter’s family posted the following statement on social media:
“It’s very difficult to find the right way to share news that is so important and so terrible for so many people. Ellen no longer had any brain function when the excellent and very kind doctors examined her this afternoon. She was surrounded by family, and so many dear friends, over the past few days, and has received more support than I could have imagined.
“Ellen was truly an awesome force. Everyone who knew Ellen was better off for it. She shared joy with everyone she knew, and took joy in sharing her love and positivity around her.
“Because of the manner of her passing, she is a candidate for organ donations. The silver lining of this tragic time is that she is able to bring hope and motivation to even more people.
“We hope that we can channel some of Ellen’s fantastic energy, and use it to improve the safety conditions for cyclists on our roadways.We would ask everyone to spread awareness of the necessity of cyclist advocacy, and to contact their local politicians to help get changes made.
“We will not be holding a memorial or funeral service at this time. We will be planning to do so later, when we have had a chance to process this tragedy, and can better celebrate her brilliant spirit and wonderful life. Please keep Ellen with you when you need someone to go for a quiet walk with, or to meet for a coffee, or to kick your butt and get you out for a ride. Please know that she’ll be there as much as you need her, just like she always has been.”
Watters joined the Ottawa-based The Cyclery Racing Program in 2014 and recently signed a contract to compete in 2017 as a member of the UCI Colavita/Bianchi professional women’s cycling team, based in the United States.
Watters came to Somerville as a member of the Cyclery-Opus team for the 73rd annual Memorial Day weekend cycling classic. She bested 41 other female cyclists to win the 25-mile race in a time of 1:01.44, winning a purse of $10,000. It was the first time race sponsors awarded the winner of the women’s race the identical amount as the winner of the men’s 50-mile race.
One month later she was the winner of the Bronze medal in the criterium at the Canadian Road Championship.
She had also won the 26-mile Tour of Battenkill in Greenwich, NY just a few days prior to the Tour of Somerville.
Race announcer Joe Saling interviewed Watters following her victory in Somerville, and recalled her as being “bubbly.”
“Of course, you would be after winning an important race like the Tour of Somerville,” Saling said. “What really impressed me is that prior to winning the race she would not have been on my list of potential winners; she was not one of the favorites, at least not in my mind; maybe in the minds of her competitors, seeing her every week in the big races,” he added.
Ron Czajkowski, a Somerville resident and longtime member of the race committee described Watters as "a gracious young lady, full of life.
"I spoke with her before she went up on the podium to receive her award," Czajkowski said. "She was so appreciative of the crowd, and to be a part of a grand tradition and winner of this historic race."
"It is a tragedy; it is a shame,” Saling said.