Update to May 25th post….
Steven Perezluha, the 20-year-old cycling phenom from Longwood, FL, who was sponsored in-part by First Green Bank, finished 9th in the main category of 40 elite international solo cyclists who recently competed in the grueling 2011 Race Across America (RAAM). Steven was the youngest competitor in this year's RAAM, which was also his first attempt at what is widely regarded as the "toughest bicycle race in the world."
In addition to being the 4th best finisher among all Americans, Steven was also given the "Jure Robic Award" -- named after the 5-time reigning champion who was tragically hit and killed by a car this past year while training for the RAAM near his home in Colorado – for being the fastest rider through the hilliest section of the entire race, in climbing feet per mile, from Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD. Steven cycled from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland in 10 days and 8 hours, while averaging between just 3-4 hours of sleep per night – which is part of a strategy that helps to make the RAAM so notoriously tough, since the race clock never stops from the start of the race to the finish.
As well as his dedicated support crew, who followed him in a chase car and RV across the entire length of the country, and his dedicated sponsors, Steven was also helped by the mentoring of his uncle, Danny Chew, who won the Race Across America in 1996 and 1999, and successfully completed the race six other times. After Danny’s first RAAM experience as part of a support crew, for Steven, he remarked that he felt just as exhausted as when he had competed in the race as a cyclist. Kudos to the whole team for a tough job well done!
In addition to Steven's intense training and racing, during which he cycled more than 30,000 miles over the past year, Steven is a full-time college student and works two jobs, while also fundraising for Alzheimer's disease. In Steven's words, Alzheimer's disease stole the mind of his beloved grandfather, Grandpa Hal, (who was also a PhD) during his finalyears and also broke his mother's heart.
Steven plans to use his cycling ability to battle Alzheimer's disease however he can. First GREEN Bank is proud to help sponsor Steven for his extraordinary endeavors.
In the summer of 2010, then 18-years-old, Steven cycled 7,737 miles across the country from his home in Longwood, Florida to California and back, to raise money for endangered animals of the world, particularly wild cats such as the Florida Panther.
Steven rode 300 miles from Longwood to Savannah, GA on the first day of his trip, and after riding 200 miles on the second day he was suddenly hit by an SUV traveling approximately 55 mph – the driver of the SUV was apparently texting on her cell phone.
Steven was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, where he was inspected for broken bones and internal injuries. Battered but without serious injury, he was released and a few days later he was cleared to ride again.
His bike was not so fortunate. After inspection by three shops in Pittsburgh, the bike was deemed destroyed. Steven's remarkable passion, however, was still very much intact and he was determined to press on to help the Big Cat Rescue! As the lyrics of Steven's favorite song go, from which he derives much inspiration for cycling: "When all you've got to keep is strong – move along, move along…!"
Ken LaRoe, First GREEN Bank's CEO and also an avid cyclist, had been following Steven's progress on the satellite tracker and simulcast on Steven's website: stevenperezluha.com.
After learning about Steven's misfortune, Ken and First GREEN Bank decided to help. Ken contacted his friends Eric Poetz and his wife, owners of Chicago bike shop Smart Bike Parts. Eric contacted Jamis Bicycles and they all agreed to pay 1/3 of the cost of a new bicycle for Steven.
Steven refused to ride in a vehicle to pick up the new bike in Chicago so he borrowed an old bike from his uncle Danny Chew, 2-time Race Across America (RAAM) champion and 8-time RAAM finisher, and on June 20th they set out together riding 200 miles a day from Pittsburgh to Chicago, each towing a heavy trailer with their camping equipment, bike supplies and journals to record the trip.
When Steven and Danny arrived at Smart Bike Parts, an awesome new Jamis Bicycle assembled by Eric and his wife was waiting for Steven.
"They could not have continued this wonderful adventure to help the Florida Panther without the generous support of Ken LaRoe and First Green Bank, Jamis Bicycles, and Smart Bike Parts," said Steven's mom, Carol. "We thank everyone who has prayed for Steven's recovery from this accident. He had taken a direct hit from the SUV in South Carolina, while riding on a country road with no traffic around in broad daylight. This was a useless accident, but thank goodness, Steven has been able to continue with true grit & determination and with the incredible support of the new bicycle from First Green Bank and Ken LaRoe!"
Steven has been an impressively driven and accomplished person who has excelled in athletics as well as academics, among other things, his entire life. The year before his remarkable cross-country cycling trip from Florida to California, Steven graduated Magna Cum Laude with a 4.08 GPA from Lake Mary High School and three days later embarked on an epic 13,769-mile cycling trip from Longwood, Florida to Alaska and back while also pulling a 125-pound bob-trailer behind his bicycle – an incredible 140-day journey with his uncle Danny which was well-chronicled in an Orlando Sentinel news article:
Since completing his remarkable cross-country cycling trips, Steven has continued to move along to similarly impressive feats and challenges.
On February 13, 2010, in the very first competitive bicycle race of his life, Steven set a record for the 15-19 age group by riding 419.7 miles in 24 hours at the Sebring 24-hour race, and he finished 2nd among RAAM racers and 4th place overall. A year later, in the same race, Steven topped his own record and also set an unofficial world record for "Under 20-year-old 24-hour Non-drafting" bicycle racing by going 462 miles in 24 hours, and again finished 2nd among RAAM racers and 6th place overall.
In addition to a number of other Florida races in which Steven set records and finished no lower than 5th place – he actually won 3 of them – Steven is also the Florida State Time Trial Champion and Florida State Criterium Champion for Category 5.
Steven also participated in a fundraiser with his uncle Danny Chew, in which he ran/walked up the Cathedral of Learning building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 132 times in 24 hours – setting an unofficial building record of approximately 11 vertical miles or the equivalent of going from sea level to the top of Mt. Everest TWICE!
Steven maintains very high cycling mileage while he is also a full-time college student, majoring in Environmental Science, and working two jobs. In fact, in 2010, Steven cycled a total of 30,726 miles – which was over 3,000 miles more than he cycled the previous year.
One of Steven's favorite quotes wonderfully encapsulates his motivation for cycling: "If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, and my desires. Most of all you would see my joy."
While Steven's ultimate goal is to turn professional and not only ride in but also win the Tour de France, he is already one of a very small number of elite cyclists who have successfully completed the Race Across America over its 30-year history – often regarded as a much tougher bicycle race than the Tour de France. Steven qualified for RAAM as a result of his strong finish in the most recent Sebring 24-hour race, and plans to continue moving along at a remarkable pace in the direction of his dreams – cycling and otherwise.
If you are also interested in helping this remarkable young man on his continuing endeavors, and/or fundraising for Alzheimer's disease, please visit his Donation Page at: http://www.stevenperezluha.com/
-Story by First Green Banker Robbie Gossett