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This is the scene from the Sunday morning two-fatality bike rider accident where a Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputy crossed the double yellow line and struck the pair. A roadside memorial was left today, and friends stopped by to grieve. Today is March 10, 2008. (Karen T. Borchers/Mercury News)
There was no screech, no bang — no noise to warn bicyclist Daniel Brasse what was coming around the corner Sunday morning on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino.

A Santa Clara County sheriff's patrol car was facing the wrong way on the wrong side of the road after slamming into a group of Brasse's riding partners. A deputy was walking around in a daze, later telling at least two witnesses he had fallen asleep.

One of Brasse's friends, Matt Peterson, 30, was already dead. Another, Christopher Knapp, 20, was writhing in agony, with two limbs broken. And the third, 31-year-old Kristianna Gough, her leg severed and her head bleeding, was gasping for air.

As he pedaled toward the gruesome scene, all Brasse could hear were screams.

"Screams of pain," he said, his voice cracking.

Brasse told his story for the first time and the Bay Area cycling community continued to grapple with the deaths of two popular riders, one of them — Gough — an Olympic hopeful who swept up prizes in some of the world's most challenging athletic competitions.

Gough's mother, Karen Sue Clarkson, raced to be by her daughter's side in the hospital when she heard about the crash.

But she arrived 10 minutes too late.

Clarkson remembered a daughter who was athletic from the start. She was also a spirited woman with "the most endearing, sarcastic sense of humor," who visited at least twice a week to watch "American Idol."

Gough was born in Germany to parents who are U.


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S. citizens but moved frequently. Gough lived part of her life in San Leandro and in Falls Church, Va.

As a pupil at Bancroft Middle School, she became the only non-high school student to play on the San LeandroHigh School basketball team.

She attended Chabot College in Hayward, where she competed on the swim team, but left to pursue her dream of becoming a pro triathlete.

"The first time she saw a triathlon on TV she said, 'That's it! That's what I want to do,'" Clarkson said.

She won the 2004 Ironman Triathlon World Championship as an amateur in the 25- to 29-year-old age group and came in third in her division in the 2006 Ironman in the United Kingdom.

"I have always been happiest when using and moving my body," Gough said in a 2005 interview with the Ironman Web site. "Sports have been an organized outlet for this natural tendency."

She switched to competitive cycling recently and, according to Clarkson, had been run off the road once in Orinda and often spoke of how dangerous cycling could be.

As services were still being planned for Gough, the one question on everyone's mind remained: How, exactly, did the deputy's white cruiser on a routine patrol come to veer across a double yellow line?

Brasse, who ran to Gough's side in the aftermath of the 10:30 a.m. crash, his first-aid training coming to life, never spoke with the deputy, 27-year-old James Council. But another cyclist, who had parked his car nearby, said the deputy was in a state of shock.

"I saw the officer pacing back and forth on the roadway. He said 'I must have fallen asleep,'" said Bryce Renshaw, a San Jose chiropractor.

Kevin Valerio, who was riding behind the four riders, said Council seemed very disoriented. Another deputy was walking Council to her squad car as onlookers gathered, he said.

"She said, 'Don't talk to those people,' put her arm around him and took him to the car," Renshaw said.

Council, whose father is also a sheriff's deputy, could not be reached for comment Monday night. He was placed on paid administrative leave. California Highway Patrol investigators indicated there was no evidence that the deputy fell asleep. Council had been on duty since 6 a.m., said Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sgt. Don Morrissey.

"We are asking people to avoid speculation and we are avoiding speculating," said CHP officer Todd Thibodeau, adding that a CHP inquiry could take 30 days.

It is unclear how fast the patrol car was going, how far it crossed the center line and where exactly on the opposite side of the road Council struck the group, Thibodeau said.

"'Why' is going to be a big question," he said.

Morrissey described Council as "very emotional" after the crash. He was sent home with a crisis team that helps fellow deputies deal with traumatic events.

Meanwhile, on Stevens Canyon Road, Brasse was working to keep Gough from slipping away until she could be flown by helicopter to Stanford Medical Center, where she died.

"She stopped breathing so many times," said Brasse, a project manager at Genentech. "Each time I told her, 'Baby, keep breathing. You're strong.' She kept fighting."

Brasse, a teammate of Gough's on the Third Pillar Systems racing team, said he had long been impressed with her fortitude. Sunday morning, like most days, she had been pushing the pace, as the group pedaled from Canada Road and Highway 92 toward their finish at the Stevens Creek Reservoir.

Usually, Brasse would be right there with her. But this time, he was 10 or 20 seconds behind on the stretch of road popular among cyclists because of its wide shoulders.

Knapp, a German racer who also was training with the group, is recovering from a broken arm and leg. He declined to talk Monday afternoon when reached at Stanford hospital.

Once she switched to competitive cycling, friends say Gough won every race and quickly caught the eye of U.S. cycling officials.

She was more enthusiastic than ever, her boyfriend, Clas Bjorling, told the media.

She was training for pre-Olympic time trials next weekend in Visalia. Anthony Borba, Third Pillar's captain, said she was the only woman on the team, and one of the most selfless members.

"Besides being a phenomenal talent she was a phenomenal human being," Borba said.

Peterson rode with the rival Roaring Mouse cycling club, but was still friendly enough to train with Third Pillar, Borba said. "It's a measure of a man when he has friends."

Borba said the two teams are talking about taking part in a memorial ride Saturday.

"It's just so sad that these two athletes who were just coming into their own were struck down."

For Brasse, surviving the crash brings a sense of luck — and guilt. He and Knapp, the other survivor, "both feel a link for life now."

Gough's survivors, along with her mother, include her father, Rit Gough, of Colorado Springs, Colo., two brothers, Valient Gough, of Seattle, Gabriel Gough, of Lafayette and a sister, Laurissa, who lives in Taos, N.M., grandfather, Bob Gough, of Houston, Tex. and grandmother, Zelda, of Farmington, N.M., also survive.

MediaNews Staff writer Angela Woodall contributed to this report.