A Tale of Ultimate Survival and Human Kindness

Mon, 01/03/2011 - 3:19am by MQ

UPDATE: Go here for the latest. You can paypal contributions to teamdamian2011@gmail.com. Thanks.


Cyclists helping one of their own
A tale of ultimate survival and human kindness, Damian Lopez Alphonso's story is one that needs to be told. He's not only captured the hearts of those he's met and raced with; he's inspired an outpouring of support from the cycling community at large.

At age 13, while trying to retrieve a kite caught on an electrical wire in his native Cuba, Damian Lopez Alphonso was electrocuted with 13,000 volts of electricity - the voltage equivalence of what it takes to move a New York City subway car.

He spent 52 days on life support following the accident and has had dozens of surgeries - some life-saving - since his teens. Doctors are still baffled by the fact that he's alive.

But Damian, now 34, hasn't allowed these seeming setbacks to slow him down - literally.

Although he lost both of his hands and uses no adaptive devices, Damian is an accomplished cyclist, who finished first at the Coppa 8 de Marzo Time Trial, second at the Tour of Havana de Este, and third at the Criterium de Havana against some of the best athletes in his region.

He learned to ride his bike by carefully resting the remains of his arms on upturned handlebars.

Tracy Lea, a fellow cyclist and a Team Fuji ambassador, first witnessed this balancing act at the 2002 Pan American Championships in Cuba. Mesmerized by how he could compete without prosthetics and not in the Paralympics realm but against some of the best able-bodied cyclists in the world, Lea decided she wanted to help him in any way she could.

After much lobbying with the Cuban government, Lea secured a visa for Damian, and he arrived in the U.S. on December 6. So when Damian arrived in New York, a brand new Fuji Roubaix ACR was waiting for him, and Lea took him to Echelon Cycles, a Fuji dealer on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, for a full fitting.

With his new bike in tow as well as some new cycling gear provided by Louis Garneau and Hincapie Clothing. Damian set off for the NYU Langone Center.

After undergoing a week of extensive physical and psychological exams, the NYU doctors determined that Damian is eligible for prosthetics and facial reconstructive surgery. 

Elated by the news but knowing that neither she nor Damian's family could pay for the surgery and prosthetics, Lea reached out to the cycling community. Several private individuals (Lea's fellow cyclists) have since offered to cover Damian's travel expenses; the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction has offered to pay for the surgery; and the Achilles Foundation, a non-profit organization that enables disabled and able-bodied athletes to train together, has offered to pay for his prosthetics.

"Everyone has stepped up," said Lea. "He's achieved incredible acceptance in the cycling community.''

"When people have a chance to meet him, it's a game changer. People who see him ride his bike...it keeps our lives in perspective," she added.

Damian's surgery is planned for late January 2011, and he will be fitted for prosthetics following the surgery.

With aspirations of qualifying for the 2012 Cycling Paralympics and racing in the New York City Marathon (the Achilles Foundation has already extended a personal invitation), Damian's dreams are big.

It's because of Lea and the cycling community's generous contributions that Damian is where he is today. But it's going to take a lot more to see Damian's dreams realized. If you'd like to help Damian, please contact Tracy Lea at tlea@tracylea.net or visit the Achilles Foundation's donation page at www.achillesinternational.org/support/individual or the National Foundation for Facial Reconstruction's homepage at www.nffr.org.

When Damian returns to the U.S., Fuji will be there every step of the way to provide the latest updates on Damian's progress. Stay tuned.

For the full story on Damian, please visit: http://www.fujibikes.com/home


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I'm so proud of Damián
By: My friend
Sat, 04/02/2011 - 5:41pm

This is an amazing man. I have the pleasure to know him, and believe me, he has a normal life. On top of that, he is a hilarious guy. He has an extraordinary strenght, that's why he has overcome everything. He is able to do any kind of activity, in fact I've seen him playing pool and driving motorbike. I'm proud of you my friend, I know you will fulfill all your dreams!!! Wish you the best of luck in your surgery!!!
You deserve all this.
Thanks all the people who are working hard to help him.
Love you Damián!!!
Your Friend from Cuba.

By: Lancey Shmancy
Wed, 03/09/2011 - 7:44am

I think if he did a few commercials, he'd have enough to be set for life. Plus, imagine the amount of attention cycling would get when they look him up online.

sf, how do you stay on your
By: Grips
Tue, 02/08/2011 - 10:07am

sf, how do you stay on your bike at all with your head crammed so profoundly far up your dooper? just wondering.

Unfortunately access to the
By: Jean Headbadge
Thu, 01/20/2011 - 1:36am

Unfortunately access to the internet is not permitted in Cuba.

jesus perera
By: Mathys Dropout
Wed, 01/12/2011 - 5:19pm

thas correct brakes!

By: Tegghiaio Fork
Wed, 01/12/2011 - 5:32am

if you look at the image of the upside handlebars you'll see that the brakes are facing him, not away. instead of pulling the brakes, you push.... just a guess here but i'm sure he just leans into the levers. if he has the balance to ride and shift gears, pressing one of the brakes can't be that much harder.

nice one!
By: santiago benites
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 7:35pm

You guys are awesome for doing this. I've donated what I could, and I hope that you can follow up on this great story.

I could see Dan wearing an
By: Paul Smith
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 4:38pm

I could see Dan wearing an ascot dicky

Woops, nevermind. I missed
By: Kylian Polished
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 4:21pm

Woops, nevermind. I missed the new story that gives details on where/how to donate. Thanks for posting it.

Is there a paypal/direct link
By: Kylian Polished
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 4:17pm

Is there a paypal/direct link to donate to this fine champion's cause?

(I also emailed Tracy on how to donate, and that'll probably answer the question, but I thought I'd post it here in the interim.)

Beautiful story. Thank you for both the words & pictures MQ.

because shmaltz likes dicky
By: Warre Torque
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 4:16pm

because shmaltz likes dicky

By: Safety first
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:49pm

What are you so pissed off about?

I'm sure Damian, his family
By: schmalz
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:48pm

I'm sure Damian, his family and the people raising money for him are having a good chuckle reading your "fun" comments. High five.

Yes, that's what I meant.
By: Safety first
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:43pm

In hindsight, that might have been a... much less fun way of asking the question.

Since we're being remedial
By: schmalz
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:40pm

Since we're being remedial here, let me run your first comment through a "not dicky" format converter:

"Wow, what an inspirational story! Out of curiosity, how does Damian operate his brakes?"

Oh, for crying out loud...
By: Safety first
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:35pm

This whole website is based on "Dicky" comments. I have noticed that none of your (Schmalz) responses actually addresses the basic issue that I brought up. Which is fundamental concern for both his safety and the safety of everyone else out on the road with him. You are targeting the dickishness, but not the root issue. I thought you were more intelligent than to be led off base that easily. Appearantly I was mistaken.

Are a few of my comments dickish in nature? Probably. But if you go thru this website and remove every dickish comment then what would be left?

You asked how he would stop
By: schmalz
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:24pm

You asked how he would stop his bike and then said you wouldn't ride with him, in essence saying you would shun him. How is that not a dick comment? You wrote something dicky, it's not the end of the world, it's just a little insensitive.

By: MQ
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:18pm

offense here. yes he is an inspirational story. and I do see your concern. but he does not race with regular people. he races wit people with their own disabilities. and on training rides.
believe or not people want to ride with him.
I for one cant wait to get dropped on one of his rides. haven't ridden since the last FBF race.
I hope Ive answered you ?S and made you feel safe. OOPS I gotta get beck to work.....lata

Yes, Schmalz...
By: Safety first
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 3:07pm

It's is an inspirational story. I get that. Dozens of comments have been made to that end. I get that. But none of them has address the simple issue of how the guy goes about the mechanics of operating the device in a safe manner. That's what I want to know. Not so I can make fun of him, but so I can understand HOW HE DOES IT!

You seem to have taken offense to the fact that I would have the audacity to question this matter. I don't get why you are taking my questions so personally.

Thak you Marco, I look forward to having my concerns answered.

By: MQ
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:55pm

there are plans to documents him riding. when he comes back and after recovery.
and ive seen video of him riding in a pack. and he doesn't look any deferent then any other rider.

This is an inspirational
By: schmalz
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:52pm

This is an inspirational story about a guy finding freedom through riding a bike, and your only thought is to post about how you don't want to ride with him. I'll take his wheel over yours any day.

Lighten up Schmalz
By: Safety first
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:42pm

I'd be willing to bet that 90% of the people who read this article wondered the same thing. They just decided to take the Politically Correct avenue and wonder silently to themselves.

I wasn't poking fun at the guy in any way. I can understand how he shifts gears. But I don't see a way for him to safely control the speed of the bike. Obviously he does it somehow. I'm interested to know how it's done.

This subject seems to be touching a nerve with you. Are you volunteering to ride his wheel?

Are you participating in the
By: schmalz
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:34pm

Are you participating in the 2012 Cycling Paralympics? If not, then I don't think this is an issue.

Don't get me wrong...
By: Safety first
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:29pm

... I'm not putting the guy down. He is obviously more fit than I am. This site is notorious for ragging on "Squirly Cat. 5's always causing crashes." I'm just sayin.... Will anyone volunteer to follow his wheel on a high-speed descent?

Nobody's asking you to ride
By: schmalz
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:25pm

Nobody's asking you to ride with him.

How does he stop?
By: Safety first
Mon, 01/10/2011 - 2:22pm

I can definitely foresee some carnage trying to ride in any situation other than a closed course with no hills. If he can do it safely, big ups to him. But I don't think I want to ride in a pack with him.

how he change his gear
By: jesus perera
Sun, 01/09/2011 - 2:45am

with his upturned handlebars he can change his gear easily.i know him from when i live in cuba and he rides his bike with finessse.

By: Theo Rivnut
Sun, 01/09/2011 - 1:33am

This was a WOW moment for me. Truly insirational. Let me start back my training and ignore all the litthe aches and pains...

Hey curious
By: watts_your_problem
Sun, 01/09/2011 - 12:50am

How does he change his gears? Or does he ride one gear for the entire TT. Just curious.

By: Paolo Pulley
Sat, 01/08/2011 - 4:49pm

lance who? get this guy a gold medal.

Hey everyone. I just posted a
By: Andy Shen
Sat, 01/08/2011 - 12:39am

Hey everyone. I just posted a video of the bike fit session with Damian above. Also, I heard from Marco that donations are coming in, including a $1000 donation from one person! Thanks, and please keep giving.

By: MQ
Thu, 01/06/2011 - 4:56am

Gracias DJ. I hope that they at least consider it. I just got a NO from another major pub. a national paper. I wont say who B/C I read it every day. but the say that it was a bit grotesque for them and it might scare off some of their advertisers. oh well..
and you guys are amazing. I LOVE MY COMMUNITY. keep the donations coming. believe me I know how he leaves in Cuba and is not a good situation. so every bit counts. even a 10 dollar check would go a long way.
And thanks for the complement Ave Maria. is that really your name? we dont have a preset name like that here in our site if it is wow that a beautiful name. (wait are you a dude or a gal)


New York Times
By: Dave Jordan
Thu, 01/06/2011 - 2:40am

I just emailed David Goodman at the NY Times, sometimes covers cycling interest stories, and on a side note is Craig Cook's brother...

Angels in Spandex!
By: Ave Maria
Thu, 01/06/2011 - 2:36am

Beautiful Story! Great photos, MQ, you really captured him. Can't wait to see the follow up photos too. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (may all beings everywhere have peace)

I did email ESPN Too! Great
By: Fellow Cyclist
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 10:31pm

I did email ESPN Too!
Great Idea

By: watts_your_problem
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 9:02pm

I did.

By: MQ
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 6:57pm

Lets do it. I just did.

Maybe this idea can help
By: watts_your_problem
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 6:40pm

ESPN has a show called "Outside the Lines" and they are always looking for story ideas.

If everyone that reads this story does the following:

Click here

Then post this message
"Please run this story of a disabled cyclist, here is a link to the background of the story. http://nyvelocity.com/content/gallery/race-photos/2011/tale-ultimate-survival-and-human-kindness"

If enough people send the same message, the chances of them picking it up are greater. And then it's up to ESPN to decide if the story has merit to explore further.

Working on it.
By: Andy Shen
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 1:45am

Working on it.

I cant think complex
By: watts_your_problem
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 1:27am

I am a simple fella, I count about 20 to 30 replies to this story... Trust me you get this on a bigger forum and the replies would be in the thousands... Naturally a bigger forum there would be more potential contributors.

I would think this story is not about Nyvelocity.com but more about getting as much help as possible for this amazing Guy.

Get this story to a bigger forum, this story has legs, let it run!!!

A post titled "Dishwasher Secrets" had 1000+ comments on yahoo in half a day. I am just saying ya know.

Alot easier said than done, I know.

Funding would not be a problem
By: David Mamet
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 12:27am

that's what you think

I am telling you
By: watts_your_problem
Wed, 01/05/2011 - 12:17am

this is documentary material!!! Someone here must be in the TV business, this is so TLC or Discovery material or even Morning Talk show material. Funding would not be a problem... Seriously!

By: MQ
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 8:25pm

everyone. and you too ol'fart. if everyone gave just a little. it would go a long way.

Way to go dude. Now everyone
By: Andy Shen
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 8:06pm

Way to go dude. Now everyone else jump in. You don't have to give much, this page has had a ton of hits. If everyone just gave a little it'll add up quick.

Done, not much but every buck
By: Ol' Fart
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 7:51pm

Done, not much but every buck counts.

I guess I'll have to, link
By: Ol' Fart
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 7:40pm

I guess I'll have to, link please!

amazing story
By: Alessio Rivnut
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 5:36pm

what a kid.

Photo essay
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:56pm

Superb photo essay. A sort of reverse Diane Arbus. Instead of making grotesque of the slightly out of the ordinary you've made human (able to relate to) and even super human what would be startling to most people.

These images aren't just skin deep.

By: watts_your_problem
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:04pm

readership? Any way to get your story to a bigger readership base like velonews or to the sunday newspaper. This is documentary material with out a doubt. With that said funding will not be a problem.

Right now
By: MQ
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:56am

Just contact Tracy. And thanks everyone in advanced.

Marco, should people give to
By: Andy Shen
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:51am

Marco, should people give to Achilles using that donate link or go through Tracy?

Right on Andy.
By: MQ
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:44am

he does need some help everyone. just contact Tracy at the above link.
and lets play nice

Hey Ol' Fart, why don't you
By: Andy Shen
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:11am

Hey Ol' Fart, why don't you do some penance by donating to Achilles? (Everyone else too).

jesus perera
By: jesus perera
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:52am

marcos thanks a lot!!!!!

By: Reid Rothschild
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:33am

Amazing! Inspirational!

By: Danato Asshat
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:41am

Very tough.

Ol Fart ... karma is a
By: Carmen BoohRahNah
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:36am

Ol Fart ... karma is a bitch
and you're in the shithouse

Thank you Marco. And Damian, thank you for sharing your story and courage.

RE: Ol' Fart
By: Jed Kornbluh
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:30am

You're an idiot. Have some respect for something remarkable. MQ: Thanks for posting.

Why doesn't he shave his
By: Ol' Fart
Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:01am

Why doesn't he shave his legs?

It made you cry??
By: MQ
Mon, 01/03/2011 - 11:53pm

Try this on for size. after a week of exhausting trips to the hospital for consultations and test to see if he was a suitable candidate for the surgery. on friday after we got the great news that he was.
he said to me that he was that luckiest guy in the world.
It put a little knot in my throat

Truly remarkable
By: watts_your_problem
Mon, 01/03/2011 - 11:07pm

Damian you have remarkable courage and your story shows us the depths of your indomitable human spirit. You are the man, bro!!!

Can't wait to see the post op results both on and off the bike. Go get em Damian!

It made me cry! i hope he has
By: Henry Fco
Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:58pm

It made me cry! i hope he has a normal life after surgery.

By: Arthur Saddlesore
Mon, 01/03/2011 - 5:52pm

thanks a lot marcos

Heart touching article
By: Ray Alba
Mon, 01/03/2011 - 4:59pm

Bravo to this piece and too this cyclist. I hope he keeps impressing us all.

Thank you Marco.

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