On June 8 in the Navy Yard of Brooklyn, N.Y., aspiring cyclist Joshua Hartman exited a right-hand, 90-degree turn and hit a protective barrier during the first qualifying heat of the Red Hook Criterium.
According to race director David Trimble, by itself, the turn wouldn’t have required bike-handling skills to quickly navigate. However, the right-hand, 90-degree turn was immediately followed by a left-hand, 90-degree turn; the sequence of opposite turns, known as a chicane, is what made it challenging – and reason for riders to slow.
But Hartman carried too much speed as he rounded the corner of the right turn too wide. He ran out of room on the exit of the turn, which resulted in crashing face-first onto the top rail of a steel barrier.
Hartman was rushed to Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.
“It was a strange accident,” Trimble said. “The fact that there was another turn after makes the crash less likely. He misjudged the amount he had to slow down and hit the barriers at exactly the wrong angle. Barriers are designed to be crashed into. You’ll crash into them a thousand times and the 1,001st time, you’ll get hurt.”
According to Rek Haynes, who is serving in close liaison to the Hartman family, who have not talked publicly about the accident, Hartman suffered left orbital and cheekbone fractures as well as fractures to his upper and lower left jawbone.
Now Hartman faces an extensive recovery process requiring multiple surgeries, the amount of which is uncertain.
Hartman underwent maxillofacial reconstructive surgery on June 14, during which titanium plates and screws were inserted into his jaw, cheek and orbital, and part of his nasal and sinus cavities. Haynes said the bone healing will take up to 10 weeks.
When Hartman’s jaw, which is currently wired shut, is healed, he’ll need multiple dental restorations. Haynes said while Hartman can breathe on his own, a vent through the tracheostomy was inserted as a precaution.
But if history repeats itself, Hartman will be ready to conquer his latest challenge.
For the past two years, the 15-year-old Automotive (Brooklyn, N.Y.) High School freshman has been training with former world-class road cyclist Randolph Toussaint, who represented Guyana at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Toussaint introduced Hartman to mountain biking when he was 13; two months thereafter, he transitioned Hartman to road cycling.
“He was smooth from the very first day I took him out,” Toussaint said. “It was unbelievable the way he rode and how fast he learned.”
Four times a week after Hartman finished school for the day, Toussaint would train him in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for approximately two hours at a time. Friday was a rest day; weekend mornings were reserved for training on Kissena Velodrome in Queens – where Toussaint recalled Hartman would sometimes challenge him to a sprint.
“No matter how much I tried to catch him, I couldn’t shut him down,” Toussaint said. “He has a natural spin. And he hasn’t even reached his strength yet. That’s why I predict in two years, if I get a chance to put him in the gym this winter – he never really went there – nobody will beat him.”
Toussaint initiated Hartman’s integration onto Brooklyn-based Major Taylor Development Team, which is comprised of 19 road cyclists – Hartman is its youngest member. The development team is part of a larger entity, the Major Taylor Iron Riders, founded to honor the legacy of Marshall “Major” Taylor, the first African-American world champion in cycling.
Within two years, Hartman, who started racing in the novice Category 5, was upgraded to Cat 4 on the road this spring; he raced Cat 3/4 on the track.
“He is a very gifted individual. He’s aggressive and disciplined,” said Lorenzo Brown, founder of the Major Taylor development team. “To be competing with adult men, that should be enough in itself to let you know the potential that lies within Joshua.”
After the crash, Hartman’s teammate, Tonya Miller, immediately set up the Joshua ‘Pro’ Hartman Medical Expenses fund, aiming to raise at least $200,000 to help support his recovery.
Approximately $33,000 has been raised through more than 600 donors from across the world, as far away as Australia, Italy and Thailand. The fund even received a $1,000 donation from the Lance Armstrong family.
“He’s beloved in Prospect Park. Even before his crash, everybody wanted the most for him,” Brown said.
Added Miller, “to have this kid who’s beating up on grown men, they want to help get him healthy and back on his bike doing what he loves.”
To donate, visit the GoFundMe page.