Legacy Stories

Anthony Zahn

Anthony Zahn was diagnosed with a rare degenerative neuropathy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease when he was 15 years old. The condition affected his motor functions, but Zahn could still ride a bike and found a lifelong love of cycling. He opened his own cyclery in his 20’s and became a decorated Paralympic cyclist. He suffered numerous concussions in his cycling career, which in part led him to pledge to donate his brain for research upon his death. In August 2020, Zahn passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 45. His brain was later studied at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, where researchers did not find evidence of CTE but did find evidence of brain damage. Zahn’s family is sharing his story to continue his Legacy of advocating for brain safety. 

Anthony Zahn CLF

Anthony Cleverdon Zahn was born on October 14, 1974 in Riverside, California. He was diagnosed with a degenerative neuropathy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease when he was 15 years old. CMT gradually reduced his strength and function in his lower legs and hands. Although CMT made walking, running, and most sports difficult for Anthony, he fell in love with cycling after reading about Greg LeMond's 1989 Tour de France victory. Cycling was a perfect fit for someone with his condition, capitalizing on his aerobic ability while providing stability and security for his feet and ankles. In a sense, it gave him wings.

Anthony's passion for cycling shaped much of his life from that time onward. He began competing in triathlon relays with friends and began going for long training rides and racing his bike on weekends. He worked in local bike shops, then opened his own shop -- Anthony's Cyclery -- when he was just 22 years old. In addition to running the shop, he sponsored a competitive shop team, helping dozens of racers get their start in the sport.

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Anthony Zahn Cyclery

Confronted with the progression of CMT and inspired by another paralympic cyclist, Anthony transitioned to paracycling competitions in 2005. He quickly rose within the paralympic ranks, representing the U.S. at international competitions and earning a spot on the 2008 paralympic team in Beijing, where he won a bronze medal in the time trial. Over the course of his career, Anthony also raced in Australia, Colombia, Mexico, Canada, France, Italy, Ireland, and Spain, winning a bronze medal at the Paracycling World Championships as well. He also competed at the London Paralympics in 2012, completing both the time trial and the road race.

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Anthony Zahn Paralympics Beijing 2008

Throughout Anthony's cycling career, he suffered around a dozen concussions in crashes, losing consciousness in several instances. In the last 10 years of his life, he found it more difficult to keep focus and to read long passages. Nonetheless, his passion for cycling continued even beyond his competitive days. He loved working on his own bikes, but he also jumped at the chance to perform repairs on friends' bikes. He also took up coaching, helping cyclists of all abilities -- including his brother, Patrick -- to meet their fitness or competition goals. In 2018, Anthony completed one of his own long-standing goals to climb Mt Haleakala in Maui -- over 10,000 feet of climbing in one day -- with his brother, Patrick, wife, Liz, and crucial support from Mom and Dad.

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Anthony Zahn Paralympic Cycling

In August 2020, Anthony passed away just three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because of the likelihood that his accumulated head trauma might lead to CTE, before he passed he selflessly decided to donate his body to research in the hopes that his accidents and the resulting cognitive impairment might provide valuable data for other concussion sufferers.

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Anthony Zahn Cycle Team

Anthony was a staunch advocate for brain safety in all aspects of recreation, especially at the youth levels. He was well-read on the link between football and CTE and was an ardent opponent of youth tackle football. His family honors his Legacy by continuing to stress brain safety. Those who bike past members of the Zahn family without a helmet on will hear about it. One of Anthony’s worst crashes came from a short ride to the grocery store when he was not wearing a helmet. 

Anthony met all of his challenges with courage and grace. He was a superb athlete who gave his all in every event he entered. He was an engaged and conscientious coach and a generous sponsor. He was loved dearly by his friends, family, and wife, Liz.


 

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