David Landgraf, one of only three people to ski in every American Birkebeiner since its founding in 1973, died Monday afternoon from the injuries he suffered when a car hit him while he biked on Hwy. 27 south of Hayward.

According to the Sawyer County Sheriff's report, a 24-year-old woman from Hayward turned to speak to her children while driving south on Hwy. 27 about 6:50 p.m. Friday. She turned back and saw Landgraf, but too late to swerve and avoid him.

Her Mitsubishi Galant hit the retired teacher and threw him into the ditch. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Duluth, and died there.

The report said the driver, Anna Amparo, has been cited but did not provide specifics.

Landgraf taught physical education at Bloomer Middle School and helped coach dozens of youngsters and adults over four decades of Nordic skiing. In the rare group of Birkie Founders, Landgraf was one of just 35 people to take the start line in Hayward for the inaugural Birkie, and he continued to post exemplary results even as he crossed into the 60-plus age group.

David Landgraf at the finish of the 2011 American Birkebeiner.
Photo courtesy of Brightroom/Action Sports International.

In the 2011 Birkie, Landgraf finished in 2 hours, 43 minutes, good for second place in his age group and 468th overall.

"It's changed my whole outlook and lifestyle in the winter months," Landgraf said of his Birkie persistence in a 2004 interview. "Now, I ski as much as I can and I try to stay in shape on the off-season."

After a relatively safe start to the 2011 biking season, the toll of tragedies for cyclists has risen rapidly in Wisconsin.

A 22-year-old man was hit and killed early Monday morning while biking on Highway H in Pleasant Prairie. Devin Kunich was the fifth cyclist to die in a crash with a motor vehicle since July 1. Landgraf becomes number six.

At the same point in 2010, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had recorded four cyclist fatalities in crashes with motor vehicles.

In at least four of the fatalities this year, the cyclists were hit from behind while biking along two-lane roads. Three of the cyclists were riding along the right side of the road, and another was pedaling against traffic and was hit by a car that had crossed the centerline.

Another cyclist, in Wausau, rode through a red light and into the path of a car on Aug. 2.