Chad Gerlach turns down Amore & Vita contract

Cyclingnews.com is reporting that a former teammate and friend of mine, Chad Gerlach, is leaving pro cycling to focus on maintaining his sobriety. At age 36, with a new baby to care for and having relapsed several times, Chad won’t be “living the dream” with Amore e Vita in Italy next year. Chad was one of the craziest, most intensely-funny and unpredictably guys I ever met on the circuit – and this latest decision was for me as unexpected as anything I saw the man do “back in the day.” Good luck, Chad G.!

Full text of Laura Weislo’s Cyclingnews.com piece:

“American Chad Gerlach’s comeback tale from a life of drug addiction and hard times on the streets to a clean life in professional cycling was one of the sport’s most inspirational stories of the year. But after a season cut short by relapses, Gerlach is ready to set aside his career as a pro cyclist and put his focus where he says it belongs: on staying sober.

Gerlach, 36, was a top domestic rider in the late ’90s but seven years ago descended into drug addiction and spent time living on the streets of Sacramento, California. He was the focus of a television show called “Intervention” last year in which his family convinced him to enter a rehab program.

Just months after getting clean, Gerlach picked up his cycling career with the Italian team Amore e Vita at the urging of his friend and team director Roberto Gaggioli.

Yet even with successes in the peloton this year, where he won five races and the mountains classification at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, Gerlach told Cyclingnews that his experiment in juggling recovery with a cycling career is over.

“I’ve been relapsing a lot lately, and was really stressed out about the idea of another year – going over to Europe. I actually signed the contract and sent it back, but was dreading it.”

Amore e Vita team manager Cristian Fanini said he understood, according to Gerlach. “It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My continued sobriety would be the biggest win of my life. I’m very happy and excited with my decision.”

Fanini grew concerned when he lost touch with Gerlach mid-way through the season, but was unaware that he had relapsed into drinking and using drugs.

Where did it all go wrong? Gerlach said he had been too stubborn to get the help he needed – talking to sponsors, going to meetings – and was embarrassed about backsliding.

“I guess I got caught up in all the attention about my recovery – I had so many stories written about me, way more than when I was a pro before. But I spent too much time alone, inside my own head. I’ve been alone too much – five hours of training up in the mountains by myself isn’t that different from sitting in an alley doing crack.

“I just decided I can’t do it anymore. I’m happy with everything that happened [with the team], and they helped to show me I can be a cyclist again.

“Staying sober is the most important thing to me, and running off to Italy isn’t going to help me do that. I don’t want to lose my family – my girl just had a baby this summer, and she wouldn’t talk to me,” he said on day three of his new-found sobriety.

But just because he’s not going to stay with Amore e Vita doesn’t mean Gerlach is giving up the bike entirely.

‘I definitely want to stay involved in cycling, to enjoy it as a hobby. I’ll probably jump into some crits, do the pro race and maybe the masters, but just not as a professional.’ “

[Editor’s Note: Hopefully this means Chad Gerlach will not go the way of another Amore e Vita man, Valentino Fois, RIP. Fois died on March 28, 2008, after having embarked upon what seemed at first to be a successful return to pro cycling following a battle with alcoholism, depression and a struggle to return to top-level competition after having once ridden as a domestique for Marco Pantani.]

PUDATED: Valentino Fois 1973-2008: Former Pantani team-mate found dead – Fois racconta: "La mia vita tra cocaina e depressione" (UPDATED)

La storia del bergamasco, condannato per tentato furto: “Sono in cura a Parma in un centro tossicologico. Prendevo ciò che prendevano tutti, chi nega è bugiardo. Ho un solo amico: è Tonkov”

Fois trovato morto in casa

Il ciclista sarebbe stato stroncato da un malore nella casa di Villa d’Alme, dove viveva con la madre. Due volte squalificato per doping, poi droga e depressione hanno tormentato la sua vita

BERGAMO, 28 marzo 2008 – Il ciclista Valentino Fois, 34 anni, è stato trovato morto stamattina nella sua abitazione di Villa D’Almè, in provincia diBergamo. Ancora non sono chiare le cause del decesso ma, secondo i primi rilievi, l’uomo sarebbe stato colpito da un malore. Il corridore era stato coinvolto in passato in un’inchiesta sul doping. Il corpo senza vita di Fois è stato rinvenuto dalla madre con la quale l’atleta viveva nel piccolo centro della provincia di Bergamo. Secondo i primi rilievi, il ciclista sarebbe stato colto da un malore nel sonno. Sul caso stanno però indagando i carabinieri della Compagnia di Zogno e nelle prossime ore sarà probabilmente l’autopsia a spiegare il motivo della morte.

IN CURA – Fois era stato recentemente in cura presso un centro specializzato di Parma per guarire dalla tossicodipendenza e dalla depressione. Nel settembre del 2007 aveva avuto anche qualche guaio con la giustizia per un furto di computer portatili che gli era costato una condanna a 100 giorni di reclusione, tramutati in una pena pecuniaria di 4 mila euro.

CON PANTANI – Professionista dal 1996, tra gli scalatori più promettenti dell’epoca, Fois era stato fermato nel ’98 per doping dopo due casi di positività al Giro di Svizzera e al Giro di Polonia. Nel 2002 Marco Pantani lo volle con sè alla Mercatone Uno. Poi la squalifica per doping. In questa stagione era tornato a correre con l’Amore e Vita McDonald’s di Ivano Fanini, partecipando al Giro della Provincia di Grosseto. Il 29 febbraio era andata in onda un’intervista rilasciata al programma “Le Iene”, su Italia 1. Qualche giorno dopo la madre di Pantani aveva deciso di querelare Fois. Dieci giorni fa era tornato dall’Africa, dove aveva corso il giro della Costa d’Avorio, classificandosi tra i primi 30, e si stava allenando per la Settimana Lombarda, che prenderà il via martedì prossimo in provincia di Bergamo. “Ci siamo allenati insieme fino a quattro giorni fa – ha detto Ivan Quaranta -. Siamo stati insieme anche ieri pomeriggio; abbiamo bevuto un aperitivo poi l’ho riaccompagnato a casa verso le 20, perché mi ha detto che sarebbe andato a trovare Rachele, la sua fidanzata. Stava bene, non so cosa sia potuto accadere”.

L’ULTIMA SERA – Ieri sera, però, dalla fidanzata Valentino non è mai arrivato anche se dopo cena è comunque uscito: qualcuno lo ha visto da solo in un bar del centro di Bergamo, ma al momento non si sa come sia tornato a Villa d’Almè. Valentino Fois non possedeva più auto, e si spostava a piedi o in bicicletta. Questa mattina nella sua camera da letto, i carabinieri hanno trovato solo medicinali di uso comune – che sono stati acquisiti – e nessuna traccia di stupefacenti. Gli inquirenti hanno trattenuto anche il suo telefono cellulare; i tabulati potrebbero infatti svelare l’identità della persona che per ultima lo ha visto in vita nella tarda serata di ieri. In giornata, i militari hanno comunque ascoltato i familiari del corridore, alcuni conoscenti, il medico di famiglia e poi Ivan Quaranta, Ivano e Cristian Fanini. E proprio dalla famiglia di Fois arriva la testimonianza di come la sua vicenda legata al doping lo aveva segnato profondamente: “Dopo la squalifica, nessuno più gli dava fiducia – dice Gianmario, fratello maggiore di Valentino -. Alcuni giudici di gara gli impedivano persino di gareggiare nelle competizioni di gran fondo. In questi ultimi tempi si era ripreso e aveva trovato nell’Amore e Vita una squadra che non solo gli ha dato fiducia, ma che gli ha voluto davvero bene”.

Bike Radar Reported it as follows:

Valentino Fois 1973-2008: Former Pantani team-mate found dead

* Despite an attempted comeback, Fois appears to have succumbed to his demons
* A former team mate of Pantani, Fois was only slighly less talented

“Those of you who have already received your April issue may have read the heart-rending story of Valentino Fois, the former alcoholic and team-mate of Marco Pantani who had recently embarked upon a comeback with the Amore e Vita team.

This morning, regrettably, that story already had a tragic postcript as police in Fois’s hometown, Bergamo, announced that the 34-year-old had been found dead. An autopsy will tell us more in due course. For now all we know is that Fois appeared to have been struck by a sudden illness. He had apparently spent the night with friends in Bergamo and had only returned home at 4.30am. Earlier in the day Fois had trained with team-mate Ivan Quaranta.

Fois had spoken in recent months about how doping had acted as a conduit to what later became a full-blown drug and alcohol habit, but it would both premature and opportunistic to use attribute his demise to the wider problems of his sport. Fois was always known in the peloton as a fragile and deeply impressionable individual. In many ways, he was similar to Pantani, only with slightly less talent. I say slightly because Fois himself was no mean climber, good enough to win Italy’s hardest and most mountainous amateur stage race, the Giro della Val d’Aosta.

It is more than likely that Fois, like Pantani, was killed by depression. Cocaine might have been il Pirata’s ultimate poison, but his life was gradually squeezed out over several years, not obliterated by a few grams of powder. For years Fois had been suffering in the same way. In recent months he’d found some relief in books on Buddhism. He’d undergone successful treatment in a clinc for addiction and mental health problems. But it may all have been too little. The man who hoped that cycling might prove Fois’s life raft, Amore e VIta boss Ivano Fanini, told me last month that, while making excellent progress, Fois was still clearly grappling with old demons.

It bears repeating: whatever that autopsy tells us, Fois’s death should be seen as nothing more than the tragedy of a young man who’d spent years at odds with himself and his world. He never gave up, but sadly, this morning, after 34 and a half years, life gave up on Valentino Fois.”
Bike Radar,
Daniel Friebe
Friday, Mar 28, 2008 11.00am

Lastly, though I’m not though not a regular reader, this requote at Steroid Nation of a VeloNews article creeped me out:

“In an interview, he blamed the incident on the fact that he had taken to drinking because he had not raced for so long. He admitted trying cocaine and suffering from depression and anxiety, for which he was receiving treatment.

Pantani, the great Italian climber, was also involved with doping, depression, cocaine, and death. Doping, polysubstance abuse = bad outcome.