Up until the fall of 1996, the amount of bike-riding Gregg Gour had done in his life had probably added up to about 10 miles.

Since then, Gour has ridden well over 2,000 miles to fight AIDS -- and the 5'8" 40-year-old weighing 173 pounds has the legs to prove it.

A turning point

Well into his own fight against AIDS, Gour wanted to die. AIDS was winning the battle and Gour was losing psychologically, if not physically. What happened to turn this suicidal man's life around so that he went from wanting to die to acquiring the kind of motivation that inspires athletes to win the Olympics?

A former minister with a small-town upbringing, Gour left the ministry in 1981 and settled in San Francisco. He was suddenly a kid in a sexual candy store indulging in everything he had previously denied himself. He went through syphilis, gonorrhea and hepatitis and although AIDS testing was discouraged in the mid-1980s, he knew he was infected, a suspicion which proved correct in 1987.

His lover of three years died in 1996. Gour had kept himself going in order to be his lover's care-giver, also acting as care-giver to two friends who eventually died. But in September 1996, Gour had reached the bottom of his emotional reservoir and was ready to toss in the towel.

Inspired by the AIDS Ride

After expressing his depression on an Internet HIV chat line, it was suggested to him that he look into the California AIDS Ride. Depressed, out of shape and suicidal, Gour signed up for the San Francisco-to-California AIDS ride. He watched a video about the AIDS ride and cried. He was moved enough to start training in November 1996. That's when his life changed. And it's still changing.

He started to practice bike riding every morning at a gym in San Diego, where he was living at the time, and would drive up to l.a. to practice on weekends with the Pride Peddlers. He was doing over 200 miles a week by the time he rode 590 miles on the California AIDS Ride in June 1997. He followed this up with 275 miles on the Boston-to-New York AIDS Ride three months later.

"People told me I was an inspiration," Gour says. "That gave me a reason to keep going, a reason to excel. More and more I thought that I could be an example of a long-term survivor."

Gour, who will do the Twin Cities/Wisconsin/Chicago Ride (500 miles) in July and recently repeated the California AIDS Ride in May, has found more than a reason to live. He has become a fighter. He doesn't just react to life and his infection; he is proactive in everything.

"I am not a victim," says Gour. "I take full responsibility for my infection. No one 'did' this to me.

"I am in charge of my health and my life. If a medication doesn't agree with me, I get it changed." Gour is currently on his fourth protease inhibitor. His T-Cell count is 220 and his viral load is below the level of detection. "If a doctor gives me a problem, I change my doctor. I read about HIV. I am knowledgeable and responsible."

To be closer to friends he'd made on the California AIDS Ride, Gour moved to l.a. in 1997. He has been working for Pro Sports Nutrition Depot, a gay-owned company, which contributes $1,000 to each of Gour's rides and gives him time off to take part in the rides.

Looking beyond 40

At one time Gour never expected to reach 40, but he is now thinking of his life beyond the millennium. "I want to be the successful chief financial officer of a growing company," he says. "Although I don't need a relationship, I'd like to be in one because I know from experience what it can add to my life.

"The biggest mistake HIV people make is letting the disease control their body," says Gour. "It's necessary to stay active and vital. Working and being a part of the community makes one motivated. You can't let the disease be the end-all of your life.

"If you think negatively, you will become sick. If a medication doesn't work, you can't say, 'I give up.' You have to say 'what do we do now?'"

This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).