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All-diabetic cycling team gives us hope


From 7th to 9th November 2013, a bit of history is being made on South African soil as an all-diabetic cycling team cycle 1 200km in 48 hours to help raise diabetes awareness.

Team Novo Nordisk is the only team of its kind in the world that consists entirely of cyclists with Type 1 diabetes. The team, of 16 cyclists from 10 different countries, will participate in the Changing Diabetes Cycling Challenge, an annual non-stop cycling marathon from Johannesburg to George.

Their mission? To help raise funds for children from disadvantaged communities to have reliable access to the diabetes medication and care they need.

Says Phil Southerland, CEO and co-founder of Team Novo Nordisk: “All the members of Team Novo Nordisk share a passion for competitive cycling and showing the world what’s possible with great diabetes control. We are living proof that you can live your dreams, despite diabetes.”

Type 1 diabetes requires the regular checking of blood glucose levels and insulin injections several times a day. Poorly managed diabetes can result in serious health problems such as blindness, cardiovascular disease kidney problems and nerve damage which could lead to amputation.

Because of the special care needed by diabetics, many people believe it’s impossible for them to be serious athletes.

“It is our mission to prove that diabetes need not slow you down. If your diabetes is well-managed, there is nothing you can’t do, including being a professional cyclist.”

US-born Phil was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1982, when he was only seven months old. At the age of 12 he started cycling and soon discovered that it was an excellent way to help manage his health. He slowly climbed through the ranks as a junior and (later) senior cyclist, participating in various cycling challenges.

In 2005, he combined his love for cycling and mission to raise diabetes awareness to form the world’s first all-diabetes sports team. All team members are serious athletes with well-controlled diabetes and the desire to educate, empower and inspire everyone affected by diabetes.

As diabetics, the cyclists face unique challenges. “Our athletes have to be constantly worried about their blood sugar and some riders have to inject themselves with insulin during races. People without diabetes don’t have the stress that goes with it,” says Phil.

“However, the minute we put on our Team Novo Nordisk jerseys, diabetes is no longer an excuse for us. We take pride in the fact that we’re going to win or lose the race because of our sporting merit and our team work, not because of diabetes.”

Free Diabetes screening and testing has been included as part of this year’s event. After departing in Rivonia, the team will stop over in Soweto, Then stop again in Kimberly.

Team Novo Nordisk has a traditional cycling medical team plus a specialist diabetes team that travel with them all the time.

The team has participated in many events around the world. A personal highlight for the team is the Tour du Rwanda, in which they will participate directly after the Changing Diabetes Cycling Challenge in South Africa. “It’s a big target we’ve set ourselves this year,” says Phil.

Their long-term goal is to take part in the Tour de France one day. “We’re aiming to do so in 2021, the year that will mark the 100th year anniversary of the discovery of insulin.”

The team is being sponsored by Novo Nordisk, the world’s leading company in diabetes care, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.

For the latest news on Team Novo Nordisk and the Changing Diabetes Cycling Challenge, follow @TeamNovoNordisk and @Cycle4Diabetes on  Twitter or visit TeamNovoNordisk and ChangingDiabetesZA on Facebook.

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  1. londiwe khoza londiwe khoza


    My name is Londiwe ,Iam a newly dignose diabetic patient with type 1diabetic .23 years of age this has turned my life upside down.I lost my job through it,it affecting my eye sight i’m having more low in my sugar.It a difficult change of life style but one day at a time.

    • Hi Londiwe!
      It will get better, I promise… It is a difficult change in the beginning, but it gets easier. Join our Facebook page too – Diabetic South Africans.

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.