April 20, 2016 0 Comments
Chris Williams is one of the more unusual riders in the pro peloton. For one thing, he started out as a triathlete. For another, he didn't even take up triathlon until he was a student. For yet another, he actually finished his studies, and has a college degree. And finally, like all Team Novo Nordisk's riders, he is living proof that diabetes is no obstacle to a career at the highest level of professional sport.
Perhaps not surprisingly then, Chris has a unique perspective on life in pro cycling. He'll be sharing his adventures with us this season in a regular blog. By way of introduction, Chris has written a short account of his unconventional path into the peloton.
Team Novo Nordisk: the world’s first all diabetes pro cycling team
I grew up in rural Australia where a bike serves no real purpose other than getting to school and back. As a kid, I rode my BMX around town and preferred playing team sports such as soccer (aka football), cricket and rugby. I had no idea what the Tour de France was, and for me, the most important feature of a bicycle was not how aero or light it was, but if it had stunt pegs on the back so I could ‘double’ my friends. After high school, I let myself go. I was overweight and had taken up the bad habit of smoking. I relocated to the city to study and moved into a shared house, which included a triathlete. One Saturday, we were sitting on the couch watching a triathlon on television when my girlfriend made a remark about a triathlete's physique as he ran out of the water. Being slightly offended and highly competitive, I made a bold claim and said 'I could do that.' It was quickly met with laughter.
I guess it was out of spite, but I quit smoking, sold my car, purchased a road bike and within three months I did my first triathlon. After a couple of years battling away in triathlons, I began to realise that I actually hated running and was not a natural swimmer. I was frustrated that I couldn’t be as competitive as I wanted to be, so I decided to try my luck at cycling.
At 21 years of age, I was a relative latecomer to the sport of cycling. I didn’t know any cyclists and knew very little about the sport, so I really threw myself into the deep end. The learning curve was steep, and I have several embarrassing stories of doing things the ‘wrong’ way, like when I purchased and rode around in a wind-vest in the middle of summer because I thought it was a short-sleeved jersey. But I’ll save those stories for another time…
I started at the bottom, riding and racing with my local club team before getting the opportunity to race in National Series events. I was progressing and racing for a domestic team in 2009 when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes while at a National Series race. I was told that endurance sport and diabetes was a very difficult combination and that I would need to stop for a while. I was devastated and in my mind, I had already sold my bike.
Fortunately, I had some good friends who were not going to let me mope around and I was back on my bike within two days. Riding and racing with type 1 diabetes was another steep learning curve, and it was a few weeks before I took to the start line again. At the end of 2010, a friend of mine managed to put a good word in for me and I was able to race my first UCI race in China for a Continental Team. I trained my butt off for the race and came away with a good result and received a contract offer for the following year.
This year marks my fourth year racing with Team Novo Nordisk, a Professional Continental team comprised entirely of athletes with type 1 diabetes. During the season, I’m based in Girona, Spain and race around Europe, Asia & the Americas. Although racing and competing is my job, I genuinely love being active and outdoors. My favourite training ride is one where I can forget about heart rate and power zones and just go and explore the world. At 34 years old, I’m truly the oldest guy on the team. In fact, I’m older than the team doctor and even the team’s CEO! I like to think that this gives me a slightly different viewpoint on life and racing, and hopefully I can share some of these ‘behind the scenes’ stories.
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