Spoke ‘n Words: This cyclist earns a second chance at sport life | SierraSun.com

Spoke ‘n Words: This cyclist earns a second chance at sport life

Photo courtesy John Mackey/JohnMackeyPhoto.comChad, May 2009, is back in the big leagues and on his way to winning the downtown Auburn Criterium by a large margin.

Have you ever heard the sad stories of professional athletes who become extremely successful in their careers, only to hit a massive downhill spiral, waste all of their money and turn to a life of drugs?What if they were given a second chance? Would they capitalize on it, or just throw it all away again?I had the opportunity to read about and witness an example of this situation first hand.Chad Gerlach was on the Aandamp;E show Intervention, which documents a persons drug addiction and his familys efforts to get him treatment. He was an up-and-coming young cyclist who raced for numerous professional teams, including U.S. Postal Service Lance Armstrongs team in the 90s. A bad attitude and a series of bad decisions led to Chad being fired from multiple teams, and eventually he turned to alcohol and drugs. The television documentary caught up to him when he was at his lowest point, living on the streets and smoking crack.I watched the Intervention show with amazement about a week before I traveled to the Folsom Cyclebration race last summer. The actual race was rather routine, except for the guy who cut across the racecourse on the old 10-speed clunker bike. After the race, I was cooling down, and I noticed the same guy sitting under the shade of a tree. He was dirty and disheveled, and looked disgusting. He looked up at me and said, I hate to break it to you man, but youre a loser. So I responded, Yeah, well youre a drunk. Then I recognized him. Its Chad from Intervention. So I said, I know you. I know you from TV. He looked slightly alarmed.I doubt it, he said, then jumped back on his junk bike and rode away.Chad eventually got clean, began riding his bike again and was amazingly given a second chance at the sport he loves and at life. An Italian team known as Amore andamp; Vita/McDonalds signed him to a professional contract and he raced in Europe during the spring of this year. He just returned and began racing the Northern California race circuit. Not just racing, but dominating. I had the opportunity to race against him this weekend in Folsom and Auburn. Its obvious that he is an extremely gifted athlete.The most ironic, and amazing, part of the story is that our race in Folsom on Saturday took place only a few miles away from where Chad used to smoke crack and live on the streets. In the span of about eight months, he managed to shake a hard-core drug addiction and rise back to the pinnacle of cycling. In my opinion, this is nothing short of a miracle! I am proud to have raced with him, and wish him all the best. Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing is a Truckee-based cycling team focused on racing and local bike advocacy. For more information, results and upcoming events, visit http://www.cwcracing.org.

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