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June 1, 2006

Ashley jetting off to US to do us proud

From: Independent Online - Cape Town,South Africa - Jun 1, 2006

By Nathalie Rosa Bucher

Ashley Abrahams will be one of five South Africans participating in the World Deaf Cycling Championship in Fremont, San Francisco, from June 18 to 24.

Abrahams, 31, from Lansdowne, has been cycling since the age of 12 and has successfully completed nine Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay cycle tours, but has never left South Africa and is exhilarated at the idea of flying to the US and representing his country.

He has been training hard, doing an average of 350km to 400km a week, which includes Ou Kaapse Weg on weekends.

Generally, uphill is one of Ashley's strong points. His mother Ann attributes that to the challenges he has had to face as a deaf youngster, previously disadvantaged by apartheid education laws that barred deaf coloured children from attending school after Std 7 (Grade 9).

Ashley's biggest worry is not boarding a plane for the first time, but the state of his racing bike. During this year's Cycle Tour he almost fell twice as the frame of his bike has been damaged considerably over the years.

Ashley was about to give up cycling three years ago - his passion is an expensive sport and he could not afford a new bike. His mother tried to get support for him. She contacted bicycle shops and associations, and then came across the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN).

BEN managing director Andrew Wheeldon, a veteran racer, donated a bike to Ashley and has been supporting him ever since.

The handlebars of his Giant racing bike have had to be fixed three times already and Ashley feels it is time for a new bike, or at least a new frame, which would cost about R7 000.

He believes a revamped bike would allow him to race at full speed and perform at his best.

Wheeldon has offered some help from his own pocket.

His family hopes to be able to raise the outstanding funds before he flies out on June 13.

© 2006 Independent Online.