Gerlach relapses, Tour of Nez winner back living on the streets
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Monday, October 05, 2009

Gerlach relapses, Tour of Nez winner back living on the streets

by Conal Andrews at 9:28 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

American rider Chad Gerlach’s much documented return from life as a homeless crack addict to racing cyclist appears to have been derailed, with the American once again living on the streets in Sacramento.

According to the Sacramento Bee newspaper, Gerlach’s father Peter has said that his son entered drug rehab about three weeks ago, but didn’t complete the programme. He had earlier been picked up by local police on September 25th for suspected public drunkenness.

Gerlach was once regarded as one of the US’ most talented young riders and won stages in the Tours of China and Langkawi. He competed for teams such as Montgomery-Bell, U.S. Postal Service, Navigators Insurance in 1997, Oilme-Klein and Sierra Nevada, but became depressed after best friend and team-mate Ryan Smith was murdered in 2003.

After several years of alcoholism, crack addiction and living on the streets, he appeared on the A&E television series Intervention, entered a detox programme and became clean. Amore & Vita team founder Ivano Fanini offered the rider a spot on his team late in 2008 and he accepted the chance of a fresh start.

The 36 year old made a successful return to racing and in June he won two criterium stages plus the overall classification in the Tour de Nez. He then went on to finish fifth behind Lance Armstrong in the Nevada City Classic. However, according to the Sacrament Bee, he was drinking again at that point, and the wheels fell off his comeback in July.

"When I heard he was back on the streets, I couldn't believe it," the paper quotes Amore & Vita’s Cristian Fanini as saying. “A story like this gets the interest of everybody in the world. I had commitments from sponsors who were coming to the race to cheer for him. I sent all the details to Chad and was begging him to tell me what was going on.

“He is an extraordinary talent. He could be like Lance Armstrong if he wanted to. At the same time, he is uncoachable. ... He's a fighter. When he's on his bike, he becomes another person.”

Fanini said that he was determined to help Gerlach, particularly after the death of recovering addict and Amore & Vita rider Valentino Fois last year. He has told him he is welcome on the team again next year. In fact, even if he does not want to return to racing, Fanini has said that he will fly him to Italy to get him off the streets.

However he, and others, has been unable to connect with Gerlach, who recently became a father yet has had no contact with his new daughter.

He described his return to the streets as a “wonderful summer vacation,” and said that he’d be back racing next year.

Unfortunately that appears highly unlikely at this point. Those close to Gerlach will simply hope that he can get clean once again. Yet even his own father is losing hope. "I'm afraid he's going to die on the streets," he stated.

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