ROLEYSTONE resident David Nickels (18) used to ask himself “why me” when it came to dealing with type 1 diabetes, but his passion for cycling has helped him to change focus.
“Growing up I felt different to everyone else,” he said.
“I spent a lot of time trying to keep my blood sugar levels under control.”
Mr Nickels was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three.
He had insulin injections four times a day until he was eight years old and then he moved on to an insulin pump, which delivers insulin via an infusion set that is inserted under the skin.
His life revolved around continuously monitoring his blood sugar levels and giving his body the insulin it was unable to produce.
Mr Nickels said he used to struggle with the fact that he had the incurable condition, which could result in hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) in a matter of hours if it was not managed properly.
But a few years ago he developed a keen interest in cycling and his outlook started to change.
He began to understand more about how type 1 diabetes affected his body and started to take greater care in managing his blood sugar levels.
Mr Nickels heard about Team Novo Nordisk – an all-diabetic professional cycling team based in the US – and realised it was something he could be a part of after he made contact with a former professional cyclist who rode for them in 2014.
In June this year, Mr Nickels attended a talent camp for Team Novo Nordisk in Athens, Georgia in the US.
The camp allows the pro squad to find its next talent, but it also helps to install good behaviours when it comes to diabetes management and cycling in young riders.
Mr Nickels, who only started racing in January this year, proved he was good enough to make the cut and was invited to join the team’s development squad.
“I rode with 50 other diabetic athletes from all over the world,” he said.
“They selected us on our strengths and our overall performance and diabetic control. I feel excited that riding with Team Novo Nordisk will help inspire other young people with diabetes or any medical condition to keep pressing on and for them to have hope that anything is possible – even with such a condition as hard as diabetes.”
Mr Nickels will move to Atlanta in Georgia in January to join the development team and take part in major cycling events across the world.
He will spend a year training and racing with the development team in the US and Europe, which will include 25 hours a week – or 700km per week – training on flat and mountainous terrain.
In five years Mr Nickels hopes he will able to compete in the Tour de France and he doesn’t believe that diabetes will stand in his way.
“All members of the team are primarily athletes we just also happen to have diabetes as well.
“I don’t see diabetes as a problem to getting to the top level of the sport as it is possible to manage it to the point that it is as if I didn’t have it. This is not easy – but it is possible.”