Opelousas man rides tricycle to raise awareness for rare disease

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – The Race Across America is known as the world’s toughest bike race, a race that inspires many riders.

One of those inspired riders, Matt LaFleur, comes from Opelousas. He said riding is what keeps him going.

LaFleur rides five times a week and completed his first race this year.

“I was able to ride for 3 miles in that which doesn’t sound that impressive but it’s huge to me,” LaFleur said.

LaFleur rides a tricycle. It helps him balance as he can no longer can walk.

“It’s not paralysis. We can still feel and still move everything. It’s just the fact that they don’t behave like our brain thinks our muscles should behave,” LaFleur said.

When LaFleur was 10 years old he was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, or FA.

It’s a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder that affects his speech and ability to walk.

One in 50,000 people have FA.

“That led me to a pretty deep depression. But eventually I found out that I was going to survive so I might as well make the most of what life I had,” LaFleur said.

Matt eventually met Kyle Bryant a few years ago, a man who completed the grueling Race Across America, a man who also has Friedreich’s Ataxia.

“I had no idea I could even ride a bike anymore until I sat down on a trike and eventually I did a ride across the United States,” Bryant said.

Now Bryant helps put on rideATAXIA nationwide, a bike ride to raise money for a cure.

Bryant encouraged LaFleur to train. LaFleur completed his first rideATAXIA race this past April.

“I think I’m trying the best I can. I think I’m going to be the best person I can be right now. And I think that’s all that matters,” LaFleur said.

Both LaFleur and Bryant remain good friends. They both said living with FA won’t be slowing them down anytime soon.

Bryant shares his story on his Race Across America in “The Ataxian” documentary.

It’s playing in Lafayette Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Lite Center.

Tickets are free with a suggested donation.

 

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