Mark Zalewski, North American Editor
Hundreds of friends, family and other community members gathered on Saturday, March 15 in northern California to honour the memories of two fallen cyclists - Kristy Gough, 30, and Matt Peterson, 29 - who were killed a week before when a Santa Clara County sheriff's vehicle crossed a the double-yellow line, killing the two and seriously injuring a third, Christopher Knapp, 20, of Germany.
In the most fitting way to remember any cyclist, the gathering was organized in the form of a group ride to the site of the incident on Stevens Canyon Road, near Cupertino. At the scene people quietly pondered their memories of the two riders - Gough as an up-and-coming professional triathlete who merged the often incongruous attributes of a gifted athlete and selfless individual, and Peterson as a dedicated team-mate and friend that exuded the best attributes of the sport he loved.
Among the gathered was the Gough's mother, Karen Sue Clarkson. She joined the group ride on her daughter's favorite bike. "Kristy's mom joined us on [her daughter's] bike and she hasn't been on one in years! We got a team kit for her too," Gough's Third Pillar team-mate Anthony Borba told Cyclingnews.
The quick organization of the group ride was aided by the Santa Clara County sheriff's department, which helped escort the riders and closed portions of the road for the memorial. Members of the sheriff's department were also on hand to meet with community members. "We had a police escort from the Santa Clara Sheriff's department and they closed off that section of road for about two hours," said Borba. "Everyone paid their respects. We laid flowers and mementos at the site and rode back. We were worried that there might be some harsh words, but that wasn't the case at all. People were just mostly sad. There is an investigation obviously, but that day was about Matt and Kristy."
Department Undersheriff John Hirokawa was on-hand to help facilitate the ride, saying that everyone involved help make the ride possible in such a short time. "I really put the credit on the two teams, they are the ones who put it together," he said. "Obviously there was some concern about our involvement, but they needed our help."
Hirokawa said that Sheriff Laurie Smith was adamant about helping the event in any way possible. "Her reaction was, 'We help them out however we can; we do whatever we can to help.' Usually you need permits and there are a lot of different parks and wineries along that road, but we got signs up right away that the road would be closed. Nobody seemed to be in disagreement why the road would be closed - they City of Cupertino or the residents all understood."
When the ride actually happened, any concern about interactions between the department and the cyclists were washed away. "At the site, where the emotions would obviously be the highest, our officers saw no disrespect - only thank yous (sic) and appreciations," said Hirokawa. "There were compliments to our people on how the ride actually went. When I was out at the site, people were shaking hands with me and my other deputies, thanking us for helping."
"This is a tragic incident and tragic accident, and our sympathies go to the families of Kristy and Matt," said Hirokawa. "This ride was not about the cyclists versus the sheriff's department, it was all about the memories of the two cyclists."
To read the full news feature, click here.
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