RAAM Legend Killed During 2005 Race
The 2005 Race Across America suffered the second fatality in its 24- year history when 53-year-old solo rider Dr. Bob Breedlove was killed in a collision with a pick-up truck 28 miles west of Trinidad, Colo. Breedlove was more than 1,000 miles into the race and had just climbed the 9,941-foot high Cuchara Pass. He was in 12th place and leading the 50+ division at the time of the accident, attempting to break his own 50+ transcontinental record average speed of 12.26 mph, which he set in 2002.
The incident took place on a section of road that sloped gently downhill. According to a RAAM press release, Breedlove appeared to slump on his bicycle and swerved into the path of the oncoming vehicle. The driver attempted to avoid Breedlove but was unable to do so.
Paramedics pronounced Breedlove dead at the accident scene.
Dan Chew, an ultracyclist and RAAM commentator, called Breedlove "the greatest RAAM rider to never win the solo men's race."
Breedlove placed 7th in his rookie RAAM in 1988 and twice won the tandem division—in 1990 with Roger Charleville and in 1992 with Lon Haldeman. He finished second in the solo division in 1994.
In his "Chew's Views" column, Chew listed another of the many cycling accomplishments of Breedlove.
"In 1989, Breedlove set the still standing double transcontinental record of 22 days, 13 hours, 36 minutes by first riding from his home in Des Moines, IA to Irvine, CA as a warm-up for a 3rd place finish in RAAM that year, followed by a cool-down ride back home afterwards," Chew wrote.
A four-time finisher of Paris Brest Paris on tandems, Breedlove said his most cherished athletic feat was his 1999 Elite PAC Tour on a tandem with his then 14-year-old son.
In his RAAM bio, Breedlove said he was attracted to ultracycling as "a means to challenge mind and body." His ultimate goal was "to be able to keep riding a bicycle at 80." He said the aspects of RAAM that intimidated him most was the possibility of "illness, injury or death."
Shortly after Breedlove's death, the Executive Committee of the UltraMarathon Cycling Association elected him posthumously to the Hall of Fame. The UMCA also named the Ultracyclist of the Year award after him.
Breedlove was born on Feb. 29, 1952 in Kewanee, Illinois. An orthopedic surgeon, Breedlove was married to wife Gretchen for 30 years. They had four children: Molly Wince, 27; Ann Brown, 25; Erika Breedlove, 21; and Bill Breedlove, 20.
In lieu of flowers, the family has selected to honor Bob by requesting memorial contributions be made to organizations of extreme importance to him: Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, Dowling Catholic High School, Des Moines Parks and Recreation Trail Improvement Project, and the Bob Breedlove Memorial Kewanee Athletic Fund. Remembering Dr. Bob Breedlove
Upon learning of Breedlove's death, cyclists posted fond memories of him on an ultracycling listserv.
Chuck Bramwell recalled his first glimpse of Breedlove in 1990 "when I watched Pete & Lon's Tandem Transcon Video and noticed this character with a fireman's hat and a blinking red light to escort Pete & Lon down the road. Sure enough, that was Dr. Bob Breedlove! Later that year when I called Dr. Bob, I was amazed by how helpful he was as I was getting ready for my first PAC Tour. He even wrote me a letter answering every question I had. I was so impressed that this busy orthopedic surgeon would take time to help a rookie like me…."
In a note to American Randonneur, "Pirate Bob" Friend of Flossmoor, Illinois, recalled his memories of Dr. Bob Breedlove.
"I stayed in a three-man, dormitory-style room on the outskirts of Paris before and after my first Paris-Brest-Paris 'randonneur' cycling attempt in 1987. For the uninitiated, I might add here that 'P-B-P' is a 750-mile virtually non-stop event from Paris to the Brittany coast—and back. My roommates were ultramarathon legend Lon Haldeman and a young up- and-coming cyclist named Bob Breedlove, an orthopedic surgeon from Iowa. Lon and Bob would go on to win the men's tandem division that year, setting a new record, as I recall. (I would end up having to abandon at the 600- mile mark with a blown left knee and a lump on my left Achilles tendon the size of a duck's egg.)
"I liked Bob immediately," Friend wrote. "In our room one night I asked him if he might follow Lon's footsteps and do the Race Across America (RAAM). He shook his head, smiling, and said, 'Oh, well, I don't know about THAT!' Maybe it was winning the PBP tandem division with Lon that upped his confidence, but at any rate it would not be long before Dr. Bob was doing some amazing things on a bicycle.
"In June 1989, the Central Double Century + was held in and around Litchfield, Illinois," recalled Friend. "Conditions were nearly perfect: Seventies, not much wind — VERY unusual for Central Illinois that time of year. But still, 500+ miles in 24 hours on a non-restricted road course? That's what Dr. Bob and one or two fellow 'maniacs' were able to amass. Incredible!
"I rode with that group for a while—a SHORT while. Some of you are scratching your heads, I know—so let me explain: Sometime in late afternoon on that marvelous June day, I was starting my night loops, the out-&-backs at around 20 miles round-trip, which we repeated on old Rte. 66. Of course, he and his friend(s) were already on their umpteenth loop! I did 389 miles that day, still my personal best—not too bad, I guess, but still a 'century' and a quarter short of Dr. Bob's mileage during the same timeframe.
"I have enjoyed telling many people about Bob's accomplishments, e.g., the famous double-crossing of the U.S. in '89," Friend wrote. "Regarding the latter, as I remember it, he rode solo (with support) from the East Coast to the West Coast, then rested a day or so (maybe) before competing in RAAM (which always goes from west to east). Just FINISHING such an undertaking would be a grand enough effort, but I think Bob also finished respectfully in that particular RAAM.
"Should the moniker 'Man of Steel' ever be bestowed upon any cyclist, my vote would go to Dr. Bob Breedlove. He was, is, and will always be an inspiration to all of us," Friend said.