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Cyclists are remembered by friends and teammates.

  • By Steve Frothingham
  • Published Mar. 10, 2008
  • Updated Mar. 12, 2008 at 9:52 AM EDT

The two were killed on a training ride when a sheriff’s deputy hit them head-on

By Steve Frothingham

Matt Peterson after winning the Merced, California, criterium on March 1

Photo: Ronald Mariano

Grieving cyclists, friends and family in California’s Bay Area are planning memorial services for two road racers struck and killed by a sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car on Sunday.

Matt Peterson was a driven 30-year-old Cat 4 who competed in 24-hour mountain bike races and Ironman triathlons but who achieved one of his proudest victories — first place in the Merced criterium — just a week ago.

The next day he sacrificed his chances to help a teammate win another race, said friend Larry Rosa.

“He said, ‘I wish everyone could feel this experience just once,’ ” Rosa told VeloNews.

Kristy Gough, 31, was a talented triathlete and a generous competitor, who took up road racing this season and won the first seven races she entered.

Kristy Gough on the podium at the Merced criterium, March 1.

Photo: Ronald Mariano

At one race, while off the front by herself, she slowed down to keep from demoralizing her fellow competitors, said Jon Orban, the president of her racing club. She still won by an “absurd margin,” Orban said.

“She was probably a cross between a female Lance Armstrong and the Dalai Lama,” Orban told VeloNews. “She was the nicest person I’ve ever met.”

Gough and Peterson were on a training ride with about 8 other riders in Cupertino. A third cyclist hit by the patrol car, 20-year-old Christopher Knapp of Germany, was in stable condition Monday at Stanford University Medical Center, according to the San Francisco Chronicle Web site.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating why Santa Clara County Deputy James Council, 27, crossed the centerline on a right turn and hit the cyclists head on at about 10:30 a.m. Council, who had been with the department for 18 months, was put on administrative leave. He had started his 12 1/2-hour shift at 6 a.m.

Two witnesses said Council told them he had fallen asleep at the wheel, the Chronicle reported.

Gough won the 25-29 age group at the 2004 Ironman triathlon in Hawaii, and was Inside Triathlon‘s Female Amateur Triathlete of the Year that year. She joined the Third Pillar cycling team this year to try her hand at road racing.

Orban, who is CEO of the Third Pillar software company that sponsors the team, said the team may hold a memorial ride this weekend.

Peterson was a member of the Roaring Mouse Cycles team, sponsored by a San Francisco bike shop. Rosa said teammates held an informal vigil at a beach Sunday night. They have tentatively planned a memorial service for Thursday and are considering raising money in his name for cycling safety programs.

Peterson was a bike buyer for Wal-Mart, and was eager to bring new people into the sport and onto his team, said Rosa.

“If you were at a race alone in a plain jersey, he would come up to you and say,’why don’t you join our team.’ He was very into the team aspect of the sport.”

Rosa said Peterson was a “Jens Voigt kind of rider” — not much of a sprinter, but he could hammer all day.

“Matt was always at the front. He wanted to crush everybody. But in a good way,” Rosa said.

When the accident happened Sunday, Gough, Peterson and Knapp had separated themselves from the rest of their group on a hill. Rosa likes to think that Peterson initiated the break, and that if he hadn’t, the entire group would have been hit by the patrol car.

“Maybe he saved people by pulling away like he always did,” Rosa said.

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