Friends, family mourn fallen cycling champion

SEATTLE -- The local cycling community is mourning the loss of Jerry Shafer, a champion who died over the weekend in a biking accident.

Shafer won many amateur bicycle races over the years, but nothing mattered more to the 65-year-old than his family.

"My dad found his passion. It was a full time job for him, but he loved it," said Shafer's adult son, Hunter Shafer.

Friends and coaches say Shafer became incredibly good at the sport he loved.

"He was healthy, he was alive. No problems, and the next minute it's all wiped away," said cycling coach Kenny Williams.

Shafer collided with a car Saturday while on a group ride near Woodinville. Shafer and his friends spend four-to-six days a week training together.

"Always a pleasure to work with him," Williams said. "Never had a bad day."

Shafer achieved what all hard-core athletes dream of when he was twice named national champion for his age group. He also held two track records, but his family said Shafer's most precious victory was his grandson.

"You can't imagine having a baby that has cancer, or a grandchild that had cancer," Hunter said.

Hunter said his dad was devastated when doctors diagnosed his grandson, Lance, with a rare form of eye cancer. The child lost an eye, but recovered to grow into a healthy boy.

The cancer inspired Shafer to push himself even further.

"He was a very self-motivated individual, but he wanted to use that motivation to help others," Hunter said.

After the diagnosis, Shafer created a non-profit group to fight retinoblastoma, the disease that once threatened his grandson's life. He helped raise $17,000 by setting a record for the fastest 100 miles on a track.

"My dad, he just had an energy that could accomplish anything," Hunter said.

On Labor Day, Shafer's friends will go ahead with a 24-hour riding marathon to raise more money for cancer research. They will also get together Wednesday at the Marymoor Park cycling track to observe a moment of silence for their fallen friend