To say that Dr. Robert Breedlove was modest would be an understatement. Case in Point: In 1989, a 44-year-old woman went to see the Des Moines, orthopedic surgeon about a damaged knee. At one point in the conversation, the woman proudly proclaimed that she was a cycling enthusiast, to which Dr. Breedlove responded: “Oh, I dabble in that.”1
Humble words for a man who had just finished third in the Race Across America (RAAM) that summer. The annual 3,000-mile, coast-to-coast race that takes about two weeks to complete is the world’s longest bicycle race and the most grueling, in which riders pedal up to 22 hours a day.
A respected ultra-marathon cyclist known for his amazing endurance feats, Dr. Breedlove rode across the United States on several occasions. In 2002, he set a transcontinental solo bicycle-crossing record for a person older than 50 by riding in the RAAM from Los Angeles to Atlantic City, N.J., in nine days, 19 hours and 47 minutes. And in 1994, he finished second in the race. He also holds the RAAM tandem record. More importantly, he once completed the (Des Moines) Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – typically a weeklong ride – in just one day.
Tragically, in 2005, Dr. Breedlove was killed in Colorado when he collided with a pick-up truck as he rode cross-country in the 24th annual RAAM marathon. Breedlove, who was five days into race, was in 12th place among 26 solo riders overall and leading in the 50-plus age category. It was his fifth solo ride across the United States. He was 53 years old at the time of his death. Soon afterward, the Dr. Robert Breedlove Memorial Ride was established in his honor. The Des Moines event features bike competitions ranging in distance from 60 to 120 miles.
Dr. Breedlove may no longer be with us, however, the way he lived his life serves as an inspiration for many. As one admirer aptly stated, “Breedlove rode his bicycle not to live longer . . . but to live better.”2
Despite his many world records and the interesting places he had seen throughout the journey, his greatest pleasure was riding the central Iowa trails. He loved the trail system that surrounded Des Moines, and he used them on a regular basis. It made him realize how great it was to live in Iowa. In fact, that’s probably what he meant when he would say, “It’s another day in paradise.”3
1 SPIseattle.com, June 23, 2005
2 North Central College Track Club website
3 Greater Des Moines Recreational Trails website