June 23, 2005 (Trinidad, Colorado) – Tragedy hit the Race Across America today around 12.15 12.30 p.m. EDT, when Bob Breedlove, competitor #188, collided with a westbound pickup truck 28 miles west of Trinidad, Colorado. When paramedics arrived on the scene they pronounced him dead.
The accident took place on a section of road that sloped very gently downhill for cyclists in the race. According to the driver of the pickup truck, Bob Breedlove appeared to slump on his bicycle and swerved into the path of the oncoming vehicle.
The driver attempted to avoid Bob Breedlove, but the significant impact was made at the lower left part of the windshield.
At the time of the accident, Bob Breedlove was leading the 50+ category, and was 12th overall in the race.
Jim Pitre, the race director, decided after consultation with Bob Breedlove’s brother, Bill, to continue the race. Bill Breedlove considered that his brother would have wished this. If a rider or team decides to pull out of the race, the management and officials will provide assistance wherever practicable.
Talking about Bob Breedlove, Jim Pitre said: “This is a terrible tragedy, just terrible. We all stand in awe of the memory of Bob Breedlove, who was a supreme cycle racer, an outstanding surgeon, and just a great human being. Speaking both personally, and on behalf of the entire management and all those associated with the race, I extend my most sincere sympathy to the family of Bob Breedlove.”
The support vehicle was providing leapfrog support to Bob Breedlove at the time of the accident. Bob Breedlove was last seen by his crew members about a mile before the accident took place. They reported that he seemed fit to continue the race. “He seemed fine, we passed him a PowerBar and a Spizz (energy drink), and he went on his way,” said one of the crew members.
Skidmarks leading off the road to the right suggest that the driver of the vehicle did what he could to avoid a collision. “It seemed like he must have passed out, he slumped on his bars. He just swerved right into our lane,” said the distraught driver of the vehicle, who hurried to the next town immediately after the accident and made the 911 call himself.
From the evidence and accounts, the accident is thought to have happened very quickly. While it is unknown whether or not it would have made a difference if a support vehicle had been present for Bob Breedlove, as an additional precautionary measure, a directive was issued from race headquarters that safety continues to be a primary concern and that all crew members are required to pay special attention, and to continue to conduct the race in a safe manner.
Crew members and riders have been instructed that if they feel the need to do so, to pull off the course to process their thoughts and gather themselves to continue. A 15-minute time allowance is provided for this. Riders and crew members who require more time will be granted this on request.