I started cycling competitively in 2008 and did just one race as an U16, it was the Kerry Youth Tour and even though it was an extreme introduction to racing with the international field, I loved it and decided I wanted to come back for more!
I then completed two seasons in Ireland as a Junior, and 2011 was my first step up into senior ranks as an U23 which proved to be a great season for me. I progressed through the various categories in Ireland to the highest level, and in the meantime had some good results, most notably my first ever stage race victory in the Charleville 2 day, winning the overall general classification along with the time trial.
As a result of this success, I was awarded ‘2011 Best Domestic Based Cyclist’ by Cycling Ireland which was a huge honor to receive and a great boost of confidence. I made the difficult decision to move from my friends and local club Limerick CC to arguably Ireland’s strongest team, Dan Morrissey – Speedy Spokes for the 2012 season. Motivation was high, training was going well and I was in the form of my life, knowing I was going to have some good early season results before things started to go downhill.
I had all the symptoms of diabetes but never realised at the time what was actually wrong until a routine blood test recommended by the U23 Irish Development Squad coach showed up the shocking news. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t think it was possible and initially thought it was unfair. Why me? I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I already have to watch my diet and eat healthily for my cycling? The doctors at the time were far from inspiring, saying that my extreme levels of exercise could complicate things. I thought for a moment that my cycling career was over, until I remembered watching Team Type 1 racing on TV and that is where I got my inspiration from. I read team founder Phil Southerland’s book ‘Not Dead Yet’ which gave me the determination to not let it get in my way and live my dreams.
Little did I realise how soon this would actually happen. Only 6 months after my diagnosis I signed a professional cycling contract with Team Novo Nordisk following a few weeks of training and racing in the US with the team. Dream come true. I could not be happier to be part of this team which is Changing Diabetes and providing inspiration to millions of diabetics all around the world. Our partnership with Novo Nordisk is simply priceless, we share the common goal of educating, empowering and inspiring 372 million people affected by diabetes. I have learned so much from the team – my team mates and the amazing support structure which surrounds it – and hope that we can in turn help people to learn from us. This means more than just cycling for me, Changing Diabetes as part of Team Novo Nordisk has the ability to actually improve the lives of many others. What other cycling team can say they save lives? I look forward to the season ahead and showing that nothing is impossible with diabetes!
The world first all diabetic professional cycling team has been competing in events all around the world since February this year. I’ve managed to race in Holland and many states across America so far this season and many more to come, with some pretty consistent results, the best of which has been a top 15 so I’m keen to break into the top 10 and even further, but it’s important to realise this is a huge learning curve and I’m still learning something new about diabetes every day, the demands and managing it as a professional athlete.
It’s ironic that cycling is one of the most difficult sports in the world, diabetes is one of the most difficult conditions to manage, yet I see my cycling as an aid for controlling my diabetes. My exercise is just as important for me as my insulin when it comes to keeping my glucose levels in check, and it just shows how so many people could take this into consideration to help their own situation.
I look forward to sharing my blogs with Diabetes Ireland over the coming months and beyond and hopefully when I am home I will have an opportunity to head out for a training cycle and meet & greet with some of you.
Updated: May 2013