Balancing Act

Managing diet key for pro cyclist with all-diabetic team

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Reid McClure
Photo: Team Novo Nordisk

Reid McClure is the lone Canadian on the world’s only pro cycling team made up exclusively of athletes with diabetes. McClure got into cycling by accident, literally, after breaking both of his legs in a downhill ski crash at age 15. He cycled as part of his rehab, but never dreamed he’d become a professional cyclist six years later.

As a new member of Team Novo Nordisk, McClure is excited to travel the world racing on the International Cycling Union (UCI) circuit alongside world and Tour de France champions.

“It’s a really big deal, I’m pretty nervous about this upcoming season, so hopefully the work will pay off and we can have a good ride,” says McClure, 21, reached at training camp in Spain.

Diagnosed at the age of 3, he’s never known life without Type 1 diabetes. The Calgary cyclist tends to downplay the complexity of managing his condition, but it’s always a balancing act between daily insulin, diet and energy expenditure. Avoiding blood sugar highs and lows will lead to better performance.

Endurance is key for McClure as he gets set to compete this spring in some grueling five-day stage races, spending back to back days in the saddle and covering up to 290 kilometres a day.

“Being a professional athlete and managing diabetes, the nutrition is basically the same. You just want to eat healthily and make sure you have enough energy to finish all stages of the race.”

Reid McClure

McClure has always been a natural athlete and diabetes has never slowed him down. His parents encouraged him to play “every sport under the sun” and it was a former cycling coach who told him about the Novo Nordisk recruiting camp in 2014.

“It’s a really fun ‘change the world’ project and these kids are the reason we’re doing it,” says Phil Southerland, the team’s co-founder and CEO, who is also diabetic.

There are almost 100 cyclists, runners and triathletes on Team Novo Nordisk, all world-class athletes with diabetes.

“Four years ago, we were the diabetic team,” says Southerland. “But now, our guys (and girls) are competing, they’re going for it and they’re doing well. We are a professional cycling team and it just so happens all our athletes have diabetes.”

McClure spent two years on the development team and was the 2015 Tennessee State Road Race Champion before being bumped up to the professional peloton.

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