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One Étape at a time – Kyle Abrahams

By Megan Flottorp

The opportunity to attempt a stage of the Tour de France is a dream come true for most amateur cyclists. The l’Étape du Tour began in 1993 and has quickly become established as a significant benchmark for ambitious cyclists from around the world. Since joining the Tour de France as a major sponsor 13 years ago, Škoda has provided funding opportunities for those looking to participate in this unique event. This year, following our l’Étape du Tour contest, seven riders were selected to represent Škoda and WeLoveCycling in a battle of nerves and endurance. Each with their own unique journey, here is the story of one of our team members, Kyle Abrahams, who overcame great odds to participate in this year’s race.

Having been a competitive cyclist since a young age, Kyle, now 28, was confronted with a huge obstacle just under 3 years ago, when he contracted a serious virus on an airline flight. Following a race in his home country South Africa, he arrived back in England and sensed immediately that something was wrong. Following a harrowing series of upwards of 40 blood tests, he was basically told that his cycling career was over.

Initially devastated by the news, Kyle’s fighting spirit prevented him from succumbing to depression and he kept a positive attitude during the worst stages of the illness, silently biding time while he developed his own independent strategy for recovery. Despite having been given very little reason to be positive based on the diagnosis of his doctors, Kyle was determined, and committed himself 100 percent to taking any possible step be could to regain his health, changing his diet and lifestyle to provide his body with maximum energy to heal itself.

Of course, the choice to battle the odds necessarily comes with its risks. Never one to shy away from a challenge though, Kyle decided to take the tough course, one which necessarily involves a high degree of patience, self-discipline and faith in the body’s remarkable ability to regenerate itself.

In this end, Kyle’s extraordinary capacity for determination paid off. Not wanting to jeopardize the healing his body had done, he slowly reintroduced exercise into his life. Starting with a mere 5 minutes a day, a far cry from the 7 hours + he has been crushing just a few months before, he slowly began reconditioning his body. A huge testament to his patience, the fact that he was able to resist overexerting himself is probably the only reason he is where he is today.

A lot of this determination he attributes to his father, who was incidentally confronted with a similarly devastating obstacle around the same time as his son. Just a few months after Kyle contracted his virus, his father was diagnosed with cancer. As evidence to the fact that willpower runs in the family, his father took the news the same way that Kyle did, refusing to succumb to defeat and rather investing a huge amount of time and energy to focus on his diet and life style choices.

An incredible indication of how affective their methods were, this March, Kyle and his father spent a month tackling the slopes of Everest. On his 60th birthday, Kyle’s father was told by his son that he had 100 days to prepare and that they would then set off together for the experience of a life time. Taking a break from cycling to try something new, he describes the experience as life changing. Spending an entire month away from it all, immersed in one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world, Kyle and his father climbed and camped with a group of 10 people from around the world.

Kyle noted that one of the most rewarding aspects of partaking in these kind of activities is the opportunity to meet people one would never have the chance to if they were not united by a shared understanding. In relation to his experience at this year’s l’Étape du Tour, he acknowledged that despite the fact many of the participants lacked even a common language, they were brought together by a passion for cycling and able to identify with one another on a non verbal basis.

Of course, cycling is not all Kyle does. Despite his rigorous training schedule, he is also a well established chef, cooking for the likes of celebrities like Lewis Hamilton and Serena Williams. Working in the high stress environment of a five-star kitchen means that Kyle fully understands the importance of the release cycling provides. Although he often ends up pulling 12-15 hour working days to deliver the best to his clients, he maintains that cycling is his passion and that he always finds time to ride.

Although that seems to indicate that there would be little time left for sleep, Kyle is careful to remember to keep things in balance. A big part of what enabled him to recover from his illness so swiftly was a renegotiation of what truly mattered, and now he is always aware of making time for friends, family, and relaxation. Although he still finds time to take spontaneous road trips with his buddies, Kyle is also currently focused on his next big challenge.

In November he is heading back to South Africa to participate in another significant cycling event, a 213km race called Wines2Whales. This is a particularly special one for him, as he was planning to compete last year but had to cancel as a result of his Grandmother’s passing. This year he is riding for her, and is planning to win. Demonstrating an exceptional character and passion for all that he does, we have no doubt as to his chance of success. A big thanks to Kyle for being part of our team this year in France, we wish him all the best in his upcoming endeavors and are proud to be part of community comprised of such exceptional individuals.