Life takes a turn for the better |

Life takes a turn for the better

Gregory Crofton

In 1983, Alejandro Albor intentionally drove his car into a moving train and lost both legs from the knees down. On Sunday, he handcycled the 26.2-mile Lake Tahoe Marathon in 1 hour and 42 minutes.

His closest competitor crossed the finish line almost an hour later.

Albor’s 37 years have been a sharp contrast of black and white. The black days were in high school when his girlfriend left him for his best friend. That ugly fact, along with depression, sent him on a dark drive from his Sacramento home to Mexico, his birthplace. As he drove through Long Beach, Calif., Albor realized he was flat broke.

“I was going to stop for the train but all my emotions got me and I stepped on the gas and crashed into the train,” said Albor, who after the marathon drank a beer next to his $3,000 self-designed handcycle.

After several years of recovery, which included treatment for depression, something “clicked” for Albor and he saw how rich life could be.

He began kayaking, going to the gym and speaking to others about overcoming challenges in life, which is still his full-time job.

“I go to schools and talk to kids about my disability – why I tried to kill myself,” he said. “I tell them not to be afraid, to go outside and enjoy life. A disability is only a stepping stone to something else in life. Humans become adaptable to anything. I have two kids and I’m married.”

Albor has only been handcycling for two-and-half-years. He first tried racing with a wheelchair but found his arms too short so he switched to a road bike. Now he has a bike design business called A-Won in Elk Grove, Calif. Albor helps others put together parts they buy and sometimes donates bikes he builds to children.

“They are so expensive, they can run $4 to $5,000,” he said. “You buy the parts, you can help put it together and you have a bike. That makes me feel good. People like ourselves, it is so hard to get a good job and have money.”

In July, Albor took first place in Sadler’s Midnight Sun Ultra Challenge in Alaska. The race covered 367 miles from Fairbanks to Anchorage. He biked 16 hours over five days to win the prestigious handcycling competition.

On Sunday, Albor shredded the Lake Tahoe Marathon course that runs from Tahoe City to Pope Beach reaching speeds of 40 mph. Albor compared steering a handcycle to how one steers a skateboard – all body weight. He navigated the sharp curves of Emerald Bay Road twisting his torso, keeping his hands light on the brake.

Like skateboarding, his sport can lead to some gnarly injuries. His most recent wreck came in Santa Cruz when he got out of sync rolling over a road reflector at 45 mph. He came to a skidding halt on his back and suffered a severe case of road rash.

He’s also tumbled down embankments at high speeds and suffered cartilage damage because of the wear and tear of the sport. To solve the problem, he had surgery in January to remove part of his collar bone.

These days Albor is hoping to gain sponsorship so he can compete in Europe. He said it is more difficult to get backing because he builds his own road bikes. A-Won can be reached at (916) 684-4450.

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