RAGBRAI XLIII Countdown – July 19-25, 2015
Friends of RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI news team

Riding to remember: Carter LeBeau honored Friday



The deaths of notable figures from the four decades of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa often have triggered a similar grieving process for families and teammates: a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn — and then a time to bike hundreds of miles.

Today, the RAGBRAI pedaling parade will include a blur of mismatched pinstripe socks (at minimum, the 1,000pairs that sold out Thursday) in honor of Carter LeBeau, a Davenport biking guru who died in August at age 87.

RAGBRAI has always drawn riders who trek in memory of a fallen friend or relative, and LeBeau is one of several well-known cycling figures being honored this year.

LeBeau was one of only eight people to participate in RAGBRAI for 40 years straight since its start in 1973. And every mile he sported the vintage soccer socks.

“He wanted to have something that set him apart,” Carter’s widow, Kaye LeBeau, 74, said this week. She has pedaled every day of this year’s RAGBRAI with Carter’s daughter, Carol. And both are wearing the iconic socks.

“I feel like he’s still with me and encouraging me along the way,” Kaye said.

Carter LeBeau’s resume of adventurous undertakings is nothing short of extraordinary, with bricks such as hiking to the base of Mount Everest, jogging the Grand Canyon and biking across the United States.

LeBeau’s biking days did not begin until well into his 40s, after a scary scuba diving accident in the Cayman Islands, said Carol LeBeau, one of the three children LeBeau raised with his first wife, Dorothy, who died in 1980.

Carter ran out of oxygen while searching for a missing dive buddy at a depth of 100feet. He had to surface rapidly, without proper decompression, and suffered a bad case of the bends.

It was a slow recovery, after weeks in a decompression tank, without feeling in his feet and lack of control in extremities. His scuba buddy was never found.

Therapy doctors pointed LeBeau to cycling, which he embraced like everything else in his life.

“Dad did everything like a million percent,” Carol said.

Family members say RAGBRAI merged perfectly with his extroverted personality. But it wasn’t enough, and he went on to organize about a half-dozen other annual rides, like the Other Great Iowa Ride, the Bicycle Early Agricultural Roads ride, and another that visited numerous college campuses across Iowa.

Carter was hardly a gear head, according to family members, who recall him frequently saying “a red one” when asked what kind of bike he rode.

“He just loved meeting people and riding,” said his son, Carter Jr., who planned to join RAGBRAI today with his sons.

Carter Jr. rode with his father on the second RAGBRAI, at the age of 14. But this year marks the first for Carol, who has gained a new understanding of her dad’s legacy this week.

“It’s just been like, ‘Wow. Dad’s a statewide celebrity,’” she said.

Road bike, clothes recall cycling legend

As a kid, “RAGBRAI” and “Team Breedlove” were everyday words for Joseph Leaming, 31, long before he knew what they meant.

Leaming’s grandfather, John Gooding of West Des Moines, was a mechanic and dear friend to Bob Breedlove, a hall-of-fame ultracyclist from Des Moines who was hit by a car and died while competing in his sixth Race Across America in 2005. Leaming, now 30 and an avid hobby cyclist in Des Moines, has since become well acquainted with the Breedlove name and career.

This week he is tackling his first RAGBRAI on one of Breedlove’s road bikes, a 1989 titanium Panasonic. The bike was a Father’s Day gift from his grandfather two years ago, something Leaming describes as a sort of rite of passage or stamp of approval.

“I think I finally passed a point where I was serious enough,” said Leaming. “It is probably one of the best gifts I ever had.”

Leaming recalls frequent encounters from his childhood with Breedlove.

“Dr. Breedlove would come over and take naps on my grandpa’s couch after grandma made his lunch,” Leaming said.

The habit went hand in hand with Breedlove’s careers as an on-call surgeon and as an ultracyclist, which included five separate races, roughly 10 days each, that spanned the country from West Coast to East.

As for his RAGBRAI connection, he was known to traverse the entire route in one day.

Now Leaming, who is also wearing Breedlove’s old bike clothes, says he is realizing a much deeper appreciation for the legend and family friend.

“It’s pretty eerie how well it fits,” he said. “There have been moments for sure out there on the road by myself, head down, pedaling, that I feel my grandpa with me, who is still alive, and the spirit of Bob digging in.”

Since starting RAGBRAI this week, multiple mechanics have recognized Leaming’s bike and inquired about it.

“Usually they’ll know Bob and my grandpa,” Leaming said, noting that he’s collected some new stories about the old Breedlove team.

Team Gourmet missing a member

Team Gourmet, a RAGBRAI team since 1996, could have amended its running slogan “It’s all about the food” for just this year.

Because this year, the ride is very much about Wayne Santi, the team’s founder, who died of heart failure at the age of 65 in October.

“We’re definitely grieving through this ride,” said Santi’s daughter, Carrie Santi DeLucchi, a 15-year RAGBRAI veteran.

Her father died three days after her wedding in October.

A quadruple heart bypass more than a decade ago sidelined Santi from riding. But he embraced his role as food manager and planner for Team Gourmet, still traveling the route in a support vehicle with two chefs to plan and prepare an unforgettable nightly dinner.

“He showed us how to treat people and do this right,” said team member Bruce Gaultney of Muskegon, Mich.

Each team member on Team Gourmet, which has been featured on the Food Network, carries wooden cooking spoons with catchphrases or memories on them. This year, many of them have inside jokes Santi started, or “Waynisms,” like “More butter” or “Heather, another grape please.”

The team, with about 35 riders, says they’re carrying on the Santi tradition, which includes a ceremonial circle, prayer and grand presentation before every meal with host families.

But things have felt a bit different this year, said Elise Naught of Colorado Springs, Colo.: “It will never be the same without him.”

4 Responses on “Riding to remember: Carter LeBeau honored Friday

Chuck Offenburger

July 25, 2014 at 7:31 am

I’ll be grinning all day remembering stories about my great pal Carter LeBeau! But the first one that comes to mind is always his advice in 1995 when we were getting ready to take 308 people on the Iowa 150 Bike Ride/A Sesquicentennial Expedition — a 100-day, 5,048-mile ride across the US. A lot of people were jittery about the arrangements and plans, including their own. Carter, who’d already done one trans-USA ride and lots of other tours, calmed everybody when he stood up at a meeting and announced: “Remember, it’s just not an adventure if you know every detail in advance!” Godspeed & tailwinds to one of the most enthusiastic bicyclists ever, Carter LeBeau, and hello to all the LeBeaus out there riding today on RAGBRAI.

Deb Hanson

July 25, 2014 at 7:55 am

I had the pleasure of hosting Kaye and Carol on their stop in Mason City. (In fact, that’s my house in the background.) Their stories of Carter were incredible. He must have been quite the man. Have a fantastic Friday remembering and honoring him!

Jimmer Pech

July 25, 2014 at 7:56 am

This Saturday morning, a mile north of Lamont, my mother Rosalea Pech will raise a United States flag to greet the RAGBRAI riders as they begin their trek through the hills of northeast Iowa. Three years ago this flag draped the casket of her husband, Don Pech, who loved this ride not only as a participant but also sagging for his son Jimmer, grandson James and granddaughter Katie. After Don’s stroke 10 years ago one of things he often “wished he could do one more time” was to ride his bike with the people of RAGBRAI, and maybe through this flag he cannot have that wish.

John Keane

July 27, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I remember Carter well. The two of us rode across the U.S. together in 1981. We rode from Melbourne to Sydney Australia in 1988 and in lots of tailwind rides and RAGBRAIs. At the end of most days of riding we would buy a six pack and he would drink two cans and let me drink four. What a guy.

Leave a Reply

Advertisement

Latest Blog Posts

  • Happy Armed Forces Day

    Happy Armed Forces Day to all of those who answered the call to serve. Each summer, all of the branches of our military have several large and small teams of ...

  • RAGBRAI Training: The 4H's of RAGBRAI

    This year's RAGBRAI goes through north-central Iowa, somewhat south of Clarion, Iowa. One of Clarion's claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of the 4-H symbol. ...

  • How RAGBRAI Began!  Unearthed Photos from Karras and Kaul's 1971 Ride that Spawned RAGBRAI

    Vintage photos were discovered of Donald Kaul and John Karras bicycling the rural Iowa roads in 1971, two full years before our official two-wheeled genesis.

  • RAGBRAI Training: Focus on Duration and Frequency of Riding

    When reading about improving cycling fitness, you may see the terms used to describe how to train: Frequency, Intensity and Duration, or Time (sometimes referred to as FIT). ...

  • 2015 RAGBRAI Expo Gearing Up with Great Vendors!

    RAGBRAI Expo is where RAGBRAI begins! Plan to attend the annual RAGBRAI Expo on Saturday, July 18 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa from noon until 9 ...

  • Bike MS: Iowa, Saturday, June 27

    Don’t just ride, Bike MS! Ride 25, 50 or 75 miles, and celebrate your finish with live music and free beer from Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny Iowa! Bike MS is unlike any ...

  • RIDE RIGHT Safety Tips: TIP #1 The RIGHT Stuff

    If you have committed to riding RAGBRAI this year, it all starts with Tip #1, the RIGHT stuff. And when I say stuff, I mean bicycle. Every RAGBRAI ...

  • Don’t fly with your bike, have it shipped to RAGBRAI!

    If you are flying to the start of RAGBRAI, avoid the hassle and ship your bike.  Any one of these bike shipping companies are ready and able to ship your ...

  • RAGBRAI Training: 2015 RAGBRAI Training Plan

    Spring is here and it is time to get serious about your preparation for RAGBRAI. It is a mere 15 weeks away so it is time to start building ...

  • Dennis DeYoung and the Music of STYX will be Rocking in Hiawatha!

    Dennis DeYoung is a founding member of STYX and the lead singer and writer on seven of the bands eight Top Ten Hits. His live concert showcases all the STYX ...

Latest Videos

  • RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz points out highlights of the pass-through towns along the route cyclists will follow July 19 to 25, 2015.

  • RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz previews the 8 towns that the ride has never touched.

  • Tune in to RAGBRAI.com this weekend to be the first to know the details of this year's route. RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz shares when the rookie pass through towns, full route map will be announced.

  • RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz annouces the 2015 overnight towns. Ride will start in Sioux City and end in Davenport.

  • The Register's Kyle Munson and Michael Morain attempt to get an early look at the 2015 RAGBRAI route

  • We are excited to reveal our new logo for RAGBRAI XLIII and 2015! If you join us on our ride across the state next year, you’ll be sure to see welcoming Iowans, lots of farmland and… well you’ll just have to watch the video to find out.

  • Bicyclist Shawn Gosch of Onawa was hit and killed June 20, 2014, by a motorist on Iowa Highway 7 west of Manson. Under Iowa law, the driver of the vehicle was charged with a misdemeanor for unsafe passing and fined little more than $1,550.

  • Look back on the ride of 2014 in this video highlight reel.

  • A group of friends from Canada spent the week on RAGBRAI and recount their best moments.

  • As RAGBRAI XLII comes to an end, friends from California talk about the emotion behind dipping their tires into the Mississippi River at the end of the ride.

Find us socially

Email Signup

Sign up for the latest RAGBRAI news and notes (if there is no news in a day, you won’t get an e-mail).

© 2015 RAGBRAI | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy