Spanish Pro Challenge cyclist doesn’t let diabetes defeat his ambition
Team Novo Nordisk
Corentin Cherhal, FRA, 21
Kevin De Mesmaeker, BEL, 24
Ben Dilley, USA, 23
Brian Kamstra, NED, 22
Nicolas Lefrancois, FRA, 28
David Lozano, ESP, 26
Javier Megias Leal, ESP, 31
Charles Planet, FRA, 21
Team Novo Nordisk is facing more than just lung-burning altitude, long distances and tough competition during the USA Pro Challenge this week. The team members are also fighting to prove themselves against a stereotype.
Each member of Team Novo Nordisk is a Type 1 diabetic. This means they must check their blood sugar and administer insulin by injection several times per day.
For athletes, whose bodies are treated like finely-tuned machines, this disease can be particularly difficult. But the team members — along with team CEO and co-founder Phil Southlerland (also a Type 1 diabetic) — plan to dispel any idea that this affects their athleticism or their will to win.
In 2015, Team Novo Nordisk athletes will compete in more than 500 sporting competitions around the world. The ultimate goal for the men’s professional cycling team is to race in the Tour de France by 2021 — the 100th anniversary of the invention of insulin.
Team member Javier Megias Leal, 31, of Madrid, Spain, raced in the Pro Challenge last year, where he made a last-minute break to garner sixth place during Stage 1. At the final stage, he starred in a late day break with Jens Voigt through the streets of Denver.
Just before the start of the 2015 USA Pro Challenge, the Summit Daily News checked in with him to learn about his ambitions for this year’s race.
Summit Daily News: Why did you decide to become a professional bike rider?
Javier Megias Leal: When I was younger, my dream was to become a professional cyclist, but it wasn’t easy. This is a sport where you really have to rely on other people believing in you. Without that support, it is impossible to be a professional, even if you win many races. I’ve been very fortunate, and, now, I feel honored to be part of Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team.
SDN: What do you like most about racing bikes?
JML: Ever since I was a kid, I loved riding my bike. It truly is my passion in life, regardless if I am a professional or not. I love the feeling of being on a bike.
SDN: What are some challenges that you’ve run into as a professional athlete, related to being diabetic?
JML: Before joining Team Novo Nordisk, I raced with Saunier-Duval at the highest level and even competed in a Grand Tour. At that point, not many people knew I had diabetes, but I still showed that I could compete against the best in the world. The biggest challenges I think anyone on this team faces is the misunderstanding of the condition. Our mission is to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes, and we race to show the world that you can still pursue your dreams.
SDN: What was it like to be part of the USA Pro Challenge last year? What was one of your most memorable moments?
JML: I was really close to winning Stage 1 last year. That was by far one of my best moments, thinking that I might actually get the win. Also, on the final day, I was in the break with Jens Voigt for most of the day. It was great racing around Denver with so many fans present and cheering us on.
SDN: What is your goal for the USA Pro Challenge this year?
JML: My biggest goal is definitely winning a stage. That would be fantastic and mean so much to our team and to our fans.
SDN: What advice would you give to other athletes out there, both with and without diabetes?
JML: Be happy, and follow your dreams.
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