Bikers celebrate renewal after huge challenges

  • Pedalling forward for a cause
The Celebration of Life Ride on Sunday had a different vibe to the 94.7. It wasn’t about energy or commitment, it was about celebrating friend and fellow cyclist Howard Tucker’s recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome.
by SAUL KAMIONSKY | Dec 05, 2019

More than 100 cyclists from the Capri Wheelers Cycling Club and Hatzolah participated. At least two of them, Tucker and David Slotow, had overcome huge personal ordeals by the time they set off from Huddle Park Golf Course to salute life and raise funds for charity.

This is the second year they have participated, but this year, Tucker didn’t want the ride to be named after him, so they changed it to the Celebration of Life Ride, according to Capri Wheelers chairperson Selwyn Sanders.

“The riders did three 50km loops,” says Sanders. “Each time we left the golf course, we did a 50km loop that goes around the Benoni area, and then made our way back. After each 50km loop, the riders came into the clubhouse, where we gave them cooldrinks, muffins, water, and whatever else they wanted.”

While the cyclists quenched their thirst during the intervals, Capri Wheelers had a raffle and raised almost R20 000, which was split evenly between the Community Security Organisation and DL Link.

“We are still celebrating the fact that Howard is well,” says Sanders. “Howard is an exceptional cyclist, and very strong.”

Tucker, who enjoyed the event’s camaraderie, says, “My resilience stems from my motto that there is no mountain too high, and I will never give up until I’m on top of that mountain.”

In 2017, Tucker rode up the Lombardy-based Mortirolo Pass in the Italian Alps, which is 12.4km long at an average gradient of 10.5%. It is such a demanding climb, even the then-doyen of doping, Lance Armstrong, described it as the “hardest climb” he had ever ridden.

“Only four years earlier, I had bacterial diarrhoea two weeks prior to contracting Guillain Barré,” says Tucker. “I was prescribed an antibiotic called Ciprobay. I believe I contracted Guillain Barré as a reaction to Ciprobay, which was featured on Carte Blanche about five or six months ago. There were a couple of ladies that had similar symptoms to me, and have never fully recovered.”

Initially Tucker was completely paralysed, but he is thankful that it is largely a reversable condition.

Although his recovery has been “much slower” than envisioned, these days, he manages to accomplish whatever his heart desires during the day. “I was a fit cyclist before I got sick in November 2013. I call that period 31 November 2013, because I couldn’t move, and felt like I was going to stay in November until I could ride the 94.7 again.”

He managed it in 2015. “I was fortunate that I could ride my first 94.7 two years later,” he says.

“I continue to recover. I can walk fine, but I still can’t run, and I have quite weak muscles in the bottom part of my legs. I can’t do all exercises, but I can ride. I am a highly motivated person. Every year, I continue to push the barriers and find bigger challenges.”

While his friend, Slotow, calls Tucker a “real Rockstar”, Tucker says Slotow is a “real hero”.

Slotow’s story is as follows: “When I was 18, I walked in on a robbery at Delancey’s, Illovo. I was shot in the spine, and the prognosis was that I would never be able to get out of a wheelchair.

“Cycling was something that was unlikely, if not impossible. But I was fortunate enough to get back on a bike after a number of years. I cycled the 94.7 this year, 20 years after I was shot.”

Slotow says he enjoys the sense of camaraderie at the Celebration Ride, which has the spirit of a team time trial without the bunch sprint for victory.

However, getting to the finish line is a celebration of life for more than just Slotow and Tucker. For every cyclist who did the ride, there is an understanding that supporting one another over tough rides is what life’s journey is all about.

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