Taking Diabetes Off Road

Posted by tony on Thu, 01/03/2013 - 19:40 in

tony-cervati-tour-de-cure-1It's not very often that you get to help architect, from the ground up, the creation and execution of a brand new cycling fundraising event. Luckily for me, I got the opportunity to do just that with the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure Off Road Mountain Bike event, which took place this past fall at the Chapel Hill North Forest Trails in North Carolina.

The ADA approached me a few years back about a new direction for Tour de Cure events. I met with the leader of Special Events at the ADA offices in Washington, DC about two years ago. I rode my fixed gear bicycle there and walked into the offices wearing my Chrome knickers (cycling pants) and my messenger bag with my helmet attached to talk with them about the possibilities of an event such as this. It's this "grassroots" type of meeting and planning that make these events happen.

Planning the Event

So, fast forward to October 13th, 2012. With the help of the local Raleigh, NC ADA staff and the kind folks who manage the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's North Forest resource and trail system, we were FINALLY able to have this all come together.

As with most events of this nature, there were some hiccups at first. Some of these were budgetary and others were logistics. However, just as with managing diabetes, it just takes a little flexibility and determination to get over those "rough spots." The event itself went off without a hitch and was attended by riders of all ages and abilities.

The Day of the Event 

I marked two routes on the trail system. The first was a double track loop which was set up primarily for those families and newer riders who were in attendance. The other was a more challenging single track loop. This loop is particularly fun and is one of the more popular routes in the trail system.

Our riders were tasked with riding as many supported loops as they could within a 3 hour and 17 minute window. Those extra 17 minutes represent the every 17 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes. (Pause to think about that number. That is 5,082 individuals diagnosed every day. Every day.) tony-cervati-tour-de-cure-2

The riders at the event were able to ride the loops in any direction and at any speed. Afterwards, the ADA hosted a cookout and small post-event celebratory party. Everyone had a great time!

Although the NC ADA was forced to cap the rider number at 100 this year, the annual event will be allowed to grow at each iteration. We are hoping to have it rival the on-road Tour de Cure event here in NC, the only two-day tour in the country by the way, within 3 years’ time.

Diabetes Organizations Coming Together for the Cause

As successful as the event itself was, one of the more profound and encouraging events was something that occurred leading up to the ride day itself. We witnessed two major diabetes organizations reach across the aisle to bring some celebrity firepower to this event. JDRF-sponsored NASCAR race car driver Ryan Reed was invited to come up and host this event. Ryan, his staff and the JDRF worked with the folks at the ADA on the logistics of making this happen. I have never before seen the groups work so well together. It is a TRUE testament to the strength and determination of the diabetes online community (DOC) as a whole.

I was personally blown away by Ryan. He spoke to the riders about driving a racecar at 180 mph while dealing with diabetes before they headed off into the woods.

These Tour de Cure rides are not races. There is no prize money or trophies given out for first finisher or fastest lap time. However, it is clear that EVERYONE that is affected by diabetes is indeed a winner.

All of those involved, whether riding, hosting or volunteering, were united in the effort to end diabetes and to strengthen the bonds of diabetes that bring us together.

Thank you everyone - and Keep Choppin'!!