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SA cyclist beats addiction, takes on Red Bull ‘Last Stand' challenge

Sam Alaniz draws inspiration from late sister for endurance race around Alamo

SAN ANTONIO – The national spotlight will shine Saturday on Red Bull’s first-ever "Last Stand" race, with 50 men and 30 women riding around San Antonio’s iconic Alamo Plaza at speeds up to 40 mph.

The format of the race is also the first of its kind, with the common criterium race structure – a closed circuit consisting of several laps – featuring an "eliminator" setup.

Each rider will have to stay away from the back of the pack, because the cyclist to cross the finish line last on each lap will be eliminated until there’s only one rider left to take home the prize.

Of the 50 cyclists attending the endurance challenge is a San Antonio cyclist seeking to compete alongside the eminent riders, having overcome his own challenges in the course of his life.

“Right before I graduated high school, my sister Cynthia passed away (and) it threw me into a depression that I didn’t think I would ever come out of,” fixed-gear cyclist Sam Alaniz said. “With that depression, I fell into drugs and alcohol and I was just abusing them to the extent that I didn’t care if I was going to live or die.”

Alaniz said he was a functioning addict who was still able to go to work every day, but at the slightest thought of his sister, he would replace those emotions with cocaine to make himself feel better.

Alaniz was at the borderline of losing his life when parents sent him to live in their Houston condo as a way to combat the addiction that had already overtaken his spirit of living.

The change in scenery helped Alaniz for the better, he said, and eventually led him to a meeting with a fellow cyclist who loaned him his old bike to use for social rides.

A passion for cycling followed suit.

“The first ride I did, I fell in love. The freedom that it gave me was unlike anything I had ever felt in my entire life,” Alaniz said. “I decided that I would focus more of my attention to riding my bicycle instead of getting high or drunk.”

The need to go faster and farther would lead Alaniz slowly away from his addiction. He is now five years sober.

His continued love for and performance in cycling also helped him land sponsorships from local shops and to compete in Red Bull’s first-ever "Last Stand" race, with his hometown's iconic Alamo as the backdrop.

2 weeks... Riders will battle until the end...but only one will survive.

Posted by Red Bull Events on Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The road to success was a long journey for Alaniz, and accepting the curves has only made him appreciate every second of his new chapter in life, with his late sister in mind at every turn and mile.

“A lot of the hate I had for myself stemmed from that feeling that she would have been disappointed in me (and) that I was willing to do that to myself,” Alaniz said. “She maybe wouldn’t have even talked to me (or) wanted to be around me. I’m happy that I can now say that I don’t let my addictions control me anymore, I make my choices and I don’t run away from them.”

The Red Bull Last Stand race is a free event, open to the public. It will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Alamo Plaza.


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