Thursday, October 08, 2009

Cadel Evans - Oozing Class, while Chad Gerlach is back on the streets and I'm "Friend Dismissed!"

Thought that this was a great picture of Evans, taken at the Coppa Sabatini in Italy, and pulled from here. I'm not like Burt Hoovis in that I don't enjoy or even tolerate well riding in the fall/winter - I'd rather be cruising along under a bright blue sky and blazing sun, with temps in the mid-80's, sporting some of this Vermarc summer kit that sits unopened in one of my drawers, than pedaling around Pittsburgh in the dark in full thermal gear. Wow, I just re-read that last sentence and should be punched in the mouth for being such a Captain Obvious. Who wouldn't want to ride in the sun instead of at night in the rain? [Note: I'm told that if this piece is to read as anything other than a FaceBook/Twitter-like string of banalities, you can't race through it and have to look for the cryptic references and consider the unsaid. Sorry for making reading Pappillon so much work, and you're all free to pull out now.]

I'm glad I started riding again this spring, but didn't realize how quickly the summer would pass. Note to self: even if sanctioned for doping offense, never take three years off of the bike again. I hit a milestone last week when someone in a fair position to judge described me as "skinny," and my tuxedo pants were comfortable again. The thought of losing an entire wardrobe to being fatter than when I was a racer was strong motivation! Anyway, I'll be accepting invitations to spend a week or two at your warm-weather location during the next three months. Write me at the usual address.

Sorry for the lack of content, recently. No excuses or explanations that I want to make public, though I can promise some excitement in January or February (stay tuned for more!). The New Year will bring new challenges and opportunities, I'm sure. And I'm making up for a lean few days with today's post... October 8th...I used to think this would be a happy date, one that I would enjoy the arrival of each year. Now it's rather melancholy, if consciously marked. Abajo Fidel, el hijo de puta ese... Grrrr... OK, I'll admit it, tons of stuff going on in the background - NONE of which is fit for publication right now. Maybe that adds to the mystery? I can tell you that I will be featuring an explosive post from a guest author. No, he won't be writing about the construction of IED's, but rather, a topic that ... I actually don't know what the topic is. Damn! Where's my phone? Get that punk on the line! Last of the Twitter/FaceBook-like banality is the fact that I was "Friend Dismissed" by someone yesterday via email from Europe. While I thought it might make for humorous content here, after a session with my trusted coterie of advisers, I realized that without revealing more details to provide enough back-story to the entire situation, this part of the post wouldn't work. And out of respect for the person who'd been interacting with me virtually, I wouldn't do that. So I'm scrubbing this part of the post and moving into something far more serious...

...the news that Chad Gerlach's comeback fell apart and he's back on the streets. What a whirlwind to go from pro cyclist riding with USPS, to pro cyclist with lesser teams, to homeless drug-addict to reality TV show guest to clean and sober to Euro Pro, racing alongside the reigning World Champion, to taking top-5 at Nevada City with The Lance in attendance to being back on the streets - all in less than a year. Fuckkkk meeeee. Bummer, Chad.

I'm reprinting an article from the Sacramento Bee in full for your review. I don't understand the science of addiction, but I don't agree with the comments of David Husid, who claimed Chad was setting himself up for failure by appearing on "Intervention" and joining Amore & Vita.

Obviously Chad wasn't going to challenge Ballan (or Cadel) for the world title, but he achieved an incredible level of fitness for what he'd been through, posted decent race results, and could have done a second season with A&V. He undoubtedly would have won at least a mid-level Italian race, after which he could retire, write a book (or have one ghost-written) and go on to become a motivational speaker and the host of a new version of "Intervention," focused on getting cyclists and other athletes to give up performance enhancing drugs in favor of returning to clean competition. It would be sponsored by USADA, WADA, the IOC, UCI, USA Cycling, Amgen, and all of The Lance's personal drug-company and clean-living sponsors.

Anyway, it doesn't look to have worked-out. I'm sure there are a ton of assholes who will crap all over Chad, but I'm not one of them. Life is tough, and it's never cool to see someone you passed time with at Mike Fraysse's Sports Resort of all places fall back down into the gutter.

Comeback cyclist Chad Gerlach living on the streets again
Sacramento Bee By Blair Anthony Robertson

Chad Gerlach's comeback from five years of homelessness and drugs to the heights of pro bike racing was the stuff of legend, a triumphant U-turn in his life that startled fellow racers and fans alike.

But the cheering has suddenly stopped. Gerlach has not only quit racing, he has returned to living on the streets - spotted frequently in midtown Sacramento, glassy-eyed and red-faced, wearing dirty clothes.

Throughout the spring and summer, Gerlach, 36, trained five hours a day, won races, dominated opponents, electrified fans and prompted worldwide media interest.

Now, the man who finished fifth racing against Lance Armstrong in June before 20,000 spectators in Nevada City, who lapped a national-caliber field in Truckee days earlier, has been reduced to asking passers-by for spare change.

Records show Sacramento police picked him up on Sept. 25 for suspected public drunkenness. His father, Peter Gerlach, says he got his son into drug rehab about three weeks ago, but Chad didn't stick it out.

It's a sudden downward spiral for someone whose very public battle with addiction had inspired many.

A sudden relapse

For more than a decade, Chad Gerlach, who grew up in Fair Oaks, was legendary among local cyclists, known as someone who squandered his talent and partied away his best racing years. Though Gerlach had won many races, he became disillusioned by the low pay and quit the sport around 2003.

His public profile rose considerably last year when he was the subject of several episodes of the reality TV show "Intervention" on A&E because of his crack cocaine and alcohol abuse. Even today, Gerlach often is recognized from the show while panhandling.

One recent afternoon, Hector Velasquez, a former methamphetamine addict, stopped to chat.

"I told him that just what you have done already has helped a lot of people," said Velasquez, who has been clean for three years and co-owns an auto repair shop. "Your story and your struggle give other people strength, and you're letting a lot of people down."

Though glib, brimming with enthusiasm and eager to be interviewed when The Bee chronicled his comeback in January, Gerlach has repeatedly declined to talk to The Bee about his recent setback.

"I've had a wonderful summer vacation," he said while panhandling on a recent Saturday night outside Safeway on 19th Street. "I'll be back racing next year."

His Italian-based pro team learned of the relapse only when Gerlach stopped showing up for major races in July, following his standout performance at the Fourth of July Criterium in Davis.

After that race, Gerlach shrugged off his showing and said, "I was feeling a little flat today."

That day, those who knew him well already worried that his sobriety was slipping. His friend Joe "Vito" Accettura maintains Gerlach was nursing a hangover on the Fourth of July. Peter Gerlach said his son also was hung over the morning he drove to Truckee in June, where he nonetheless lapped the field in the first stage and went on to win the overall title in the prestigious Tour de Nez race.

Races are not the only thing Gerlach has missed, either. Asked about the recent birth of his daughter, he said, "I need to call and find out what color her eyes are, and what color her hair is."

Stunned supporters

"When I heard he was back on the streets, I couldn't believe it," said Cristian Fanini, owner and manager of the Amore & Vita cycling team, which had signed Gerlach as a goodwill gesture after hearing about his battle with drugs.

Speaking by telephone from Italy, Fanini said, "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 has tried repeatedly in recent weeks to contact Gerlach, he said. Race sponsors enamored of the compelling comeback story continue to request Gerlach's presence at races.

"A story like this gets the interest of everybody in the world," Fanini said. "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."

Fanini said Gerlach is welcome to rejoin the team for next season. In fact, he offered to fly him to Italy even if he doesn't want to race, just to "get him off the streets and away from drugs."

Amore & Vita, meaning "love and life," has ties to the Vatican and originally offered Gerlach a spot specifically because of his past. A previous team member, recovering drug addict Valentino Fois, had relapsed and died from a heroin overdose in March 2008.

"When I heard about Chad, I wanted to hire him," Fanini said. "I wanted to save someone because the first time I failed."

No recovery in sight

Though he has not given up, Gerlach's father considers prospects for another recovery uncertain at best.

"I'm afraid he's going to die on the streets," Peter Gerlach said Friday.

Two weeks ago, he said, he persuaded his son to enter a four-day detox at a cost of $1,240. But Chad, he said, left after two days.

"All kinds of thoughts go through your head," Peter Gerlach said, " 'Where was he last night? Was he in an alley somewhere, stabbed? Is he bleeding to death? Did he OD?' "

Others have given up. Accettura, the friend who arranged for Gerlach's appearance on "Intervention," said he has lost patience since the relapse. He often rode with Gerlach and attended the races to cheer him on.

"I'm done. I'm exhausted. I gave him his last shot," he said. "There's no talking to that guy."

On a late September evening, Gerlach sat under the freeway overpass on 16th Street with six other homeless people.

When a Bee reporter offered him a brownie from the nearby Tower Cafe, Gerlach scoffed and said, "No thanks. All that sugar is bad for you."

Those unfamiliar with the life of addicts have been bewildered by what's happening to Gerlach, but drug counselor David Husid is not surprised.

Referring to the "Intervention" show, Husid said, "Yeah, maybe he was a really good cyclist, but what else is he going to do? I watched him and thought, 'There's a guy who has set himself up for failure.' "

Husid, a recovering addict, is project director of Quinn Cottages, a transitional housing program for the homeless. He estimates he himself relapsed 30 times with meth before finally turning his own life around.

"People say you have to hit bottom, but come on, he's out on the streets," he said of Gerlach. "How much lower can you get?"

"Until he realizes he's not all that," he continued, "until he surrenders to the program and realizes he's just an average guy, he's never going to figure it out."

When spotted by The Bee on a recent Friday night, Gerlach said he was again set to enter a detox facility the following Monday. Then, his father said, Chad got in touch to say he needed an extra day to "take care of some loose ends."

On Tuesday, Chad Gerlach failed to show.


  1. thanks for the follow-up on chad. i had seen that episode of "intervention" and it's tough to hear about these relapses after their treatment and successes like chad's return to cycling. hopefully he can make a recovery once again. check out the trailer for the episode w/ sebastian & marcel - 20-something year old brothers addicted to meth - @ crazy!

    oh, and if you think the weather's bad now, wait till mid-january when there's 6 hours of light (not even sunshine) and the temps are in the 20's!

    word verification: pussy! just kidding.

  2. Instigator, thanks for the link to the episode w/ the meth-addict bros. That can't be an easy scenario.

    F' U for reminding us of the upcoming horrors that arrive with winter.

  3. Obsessive/compullsive/addictive behavior walks a fine line between total success and utter-failure.

    Just ask Pete Rose's bookie, or Michael Phelps dope dealer.

  4. Or any one of a number of other successful athletes, artists, businessmen, entertainers, etc who've seen the other side of the line.

  5. Hopefully Gerlach doesn't end-up like VDB...dead.


Pappillon welcomes your comments and encourages your participation. However, in commenting, you agree that you will not:1) Post material that infringes on the rights of any third party, including intellectual property, privacy or publicity rights. 2) Post material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, threatening, harassing, abusive, slanderous, hateful, or embarrassing to any other person or entity as determined by Pappillon in its sole discretion. 3) Impersonate another person.