Benefield: Longtime Santa Rosa announcer gives triathletes their moment in sun
When the Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa triathlon rolls into Sonoma County this week, there will be a guy who will be up and going at the start line Saturday well before athletes arrive and who will be still grinding at the finish line when many of them have long ago gone home.
He’s longtime race announcer Dave Latourette, a Santa Rosa guy who has raced triathlons, is still coaching athletes locally and whose voice is likely familiar to anyone who competed in these parts in the past 20 years.
Latourette might be the first official voice athletes hear at pre-race course briefings in the days leading up to the event, and the last voice they hear as they are red-lining at the finish. But he’s also the voice the spectators listen to in order to hear when and where their loved ones are or what is happening as the professionals battle on the course.
“It’s everybody. It’s the athlete, the spectators, the husband or wife or kids,” he said. “You try to engage them as much as possible, too.”
Latourette, who will again be working with Eric Gilsenan on the mic at Courthouse Square on Saturday, has to serve many masters during the unfolding of a race. And it’s not just on race day. There are athlete information sessions and course briefings, all of which almost invariably bring questions about the course, transition area, weather, gear shuttles, support stations, water temperatures — the list goes on.
But Latourette, who has a long history of racing here himself, said he’s not only in tune with the information athletes need — as a guy who rides and swims and runs in Sonoma County, he knows what information is the best information.
“I think it is really important that you have raced,” he said. “Not only do I know the course and the route, here I know the roads.”
And, as an official point person on race day, he has to be ready for the unexpected.
Take, for instance, last year, when Ironman officials canceled the swim start of the 70.3 race after thick fog over Lake Sonoma refused to burn off and severely limited visibility for both swimmers and those monitoring their safety. As a safety measure, approximately 2,600 athletes were told they’d be starting the race on their bikes, not in their wetsuits.
Latourette had to help redirect traffic, literally, and help start a race from an altogether unfamiliar position.
But that is an admittedly extraordinary circumstance. A lot of what Latourette has to communicate the morning of the race to amped-up, anxiety-ridden athletes is the mundane, albeit crucial, Xs and Os. He’s done it countless times at countless races over the years.
He’s done Ironman Santa Cruz, the Windsor Half Marathon, Lake Sonoma 50, Escape from Alcatraz, San Francisco Marathon, the Monte Rio Triathlon and the Ukiah Triathlon. He’s headed to do Ironman Chattanooga in September and Ironman Louisville in October.
After tinkering with some public address work at East Connecticut State University, Latourette got his first real taste of triathlon announcing when he was asked to a do a post-race interview in a race he had just finished.
“They were interviewing me on stage and the guy said, ‘Hey, I have to go to the bathroom, do you want to stay on the mic?’ ” Latourette said.