All-diabetic race team stops in Clayton

ndunn@newsobserver.comMay 30, 2014 

In their race-day uniforms and with bicycles to their left and right, members of an all-diabetic endurance team thanked the Clayton workers who help them stay fit.

Cyclists from Team Novo Nordisk recently rode into the company’s plant on Powhatan Road, on their way to the Taking Control of Your Diabetes conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. Every member of the team, which also includes triathletes and runners, has either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes.

“The products you make give us the ability to go to places all over the world and race,” said Branden Russell, a Team Novo Nordisk cyclist. The team includes endurance athletes at various competition levels, including a 17-member professional cycling team.

Novo Nordisk makes and assembles insulin products at its Clayton plant. Those products include injection pens sometimes needed by athletes during practice and competition.

Russell, who lives in Seattle, said he was a competitive runner who started feeling abnormally tired during his junior year of high school. After attributing his exhaustion to his sport, he finally realized something was wrong when he stepped on a scale. “I had lost 30 pounds,” he said.

But after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 17, Russell wanted to stay active and tried out cycling. He joined Team Novo Nordisk and eventually made the pro team.

Russell said he’s since toned down his involvement with the pro team, with the hopes of becoming a diabetes educator.

“The coolest thing I’ve ever gotten to do in my life is to talk with kids who have been recently diagnosed,” Russell said. “We’re not racing to try and get a contract, we’re racing to inspire the millions of people with diabetes.”

The global team is made up of more than 100 athletes from 20 countries who compete in endurance events throughout the world. While the team was founded to inspire and educate others with diabetes, the pro cycling team competes on traditional race circuits.

Becky Furuta of Boulder, Colo., is an elite female cyclist who was diagnosed nine years ago when she was pregnant.

“For us, diabetes is the most prominent challenge in our life,” Furuta said, adding that team members check their blood sugar multiple times a day while using various monitoring devices and management strategies.

“I’m grateful I have the tools I have today to manage my diabetes,” Furuta said. “It has not been a liability, and it has given me a lot of opportunities.”

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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