This week, Lance Armstrong is riding his first tour on American soil since he retired after winning his 7th Tour de France. And do you know who will is riding alongside him? More than 100 of the world's best bicyclists, including four riders from our own Team Type 1!
If you haven't heard about them, you can easily Google them and find many great links and stories about "the only professional cycling team in the world with a mission to spread inspiration to those affected by diabetes." (I actually wrote a profile of co-founder and team captain Phil Southerland last year.)
This week, they're doing something that's absolutely mind-blowing to cycle enthusiasts like my husband — and should be both humbling and awe-inspiring to the rest of us. They're taking part in the Tour of California, a grueling nine-day Tour de France-style race that covers 750 miles of turf. In some stages, the riders are covering up to 130 miles in a single day, including climbs of up to six miles or more at a stretch. This is all currently taking place in nearly non-stop rain and wind! Ever tried to ride even 20 or 30 miles on a road bike in conditions like that?
The Washington Post noted Tuesday, Team Type 1 is doing a hell of job "countering the notion that the disease prevents diabetics from reaching their goals."
My hubby, a long-time (non-diabetic) road cyclist himself, peddled out 50 miles in the pouring rain with a friend early Monday morning to catch the riders at a place called Tunitas Creek, an incredibly steep and winding pass through the redwoods near here. (Yes, it takes a certain mindset to do this at 7am on your day off; and yes, I was snuggled in bed at the time.)
Although they were stationed at one of the steepest parts of climb, all you can hope for at the incredible pace of professional cyclists is a few seconds of swoosh! and a blur of colorful jerseys and helmets. With that and the rain, we didn't get any decent photos ourselves to post here. So I've borrowed this one from the San Francisco Chronicle:
I am told that the guy in the front is cycling legend Levi Leipheimer. And we're pretty darn sure that the guy right behind him is Team Type 1's new Ukranian pro Valeriy Kobzarenko, whose body is so fit that it is somewhat lizard-like, from what I could tell on TV.
As I write this, I am looking out my office window at a cold, hard downpour hammering to earth at a 45-degree angle. The riders are somewhere between San Jose and Modesto right now, on a 104-mile stage that includes a 2,000-foot climb. *Shudder* You have to be one tough animal to be a pro cyclist. And if you're going to conquer any sport with type 1 diabetes, this thing takes pain tolerance and self-discipline to a whole new level.
A little more about Team Type 1:
This team of elite and professional level cyclists living with type 1 diabetes has competed in races such as the Tour of Georgia, AT&T Austin Downtown Criterium, and have twice won the ultra-endurance, 3,052 mile-long Race Across America (RAAM). That's three-thousand and fifty-two miles to you and me.
The team has recently expanded to over 50 members, divided into five athletic teams:
- A men's professional cycling team and a women's professional cycling team, both featuring a mixed roster of riders with and without type 1 diabetes
- An elite cycling team for the 2009 RAAM comprised entirely of riders with type 1 diabetes
- And the brand new Team Type 2, a group of amateur cyclists living with type 2 diabetes. They will also compete in the Race Across America this year!
Wow. As a hobby cyclist who's just had the teeniest taste of how tough this sport can be, I declare every one of these riders a new kind of diabetes hero. The kind that stops me in my tracks whenever I start to feel sorry for myself or wonder — even for a minute or two — whether the diabetes might get in the way of something I'd like to accomplish. NOT.