Out to win with diabetes

Simon Bennett on a time trial bike followed by a team car

Inspiration: Simon Bennett and Team Type 1 are out to prove you can live life to the full even with diabetes. Photo: Simon Bennett

Simon Bennett is a vibrant 25 year old professional cyclist who has had type 1 diabetes since he was 13. Simon left Bendigo on March 11 2009 embarking on a professional cycling career with Team Type 1 Professional Cycling Team created in 2004 to inspire people living with diabetes to take a proactive approach in managing their health, overcoming obstacles that are often associated with the condition.

Based in the USA, the team has now expanded to include Team Type 2 diabetics along with women’s pro racing and triathlon team. Simon is relatively new to cycling (starting in 2008) and was based in Richmond, Virginia on the East Coast about 1.5 hours from Washington DC living with 4 other cyclists who all see themselves as cyclists having Type 1 Diabetes and not Type 1 Diabetics that are cyclists!

Only 18 hours after landing on US soil, Simon had his first race through Amish Country, 8 hours away from Richmond, in Farmersville, Pennsylvania. If this was not enough excitement midway through the season on board a Northwest Airlines flight, using his first-aid training Simon saved the life of a man using an automatic external defibrillator and portable oxygen tank reviving the man, whose heart had stopped during the flight from Minneapolis to Chicago.

In June with 8 other team mates (all type 1 diabetics) in a non-stop journey from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland they raced across America (RAAM) a distance just over 3000 miles in a new world record time of 5 days, 9 hours and 5 minutes, beating the Norwegian team sponsored by BMC, who set a new world record the previous year. From March to October, Simon visited 42 different states in America racing his bike along with his team mates participating in just over 80 races, some with the Development Team and some with the Professional Team.

Some of the riding highlights were with the pros. Simon was lucky enough to be sitting third wheel in a 70 mile criterium of which his team mate rode away with the win. The very next day Simon was selected to start in America’s oldest race, The Lantus Tour of Somerville, in Somerville on Memorial Day in the state of New Jersey.

An important part of the Team Type 1 philosophy is to use the bike as a platform for spreading the message, which is to instil hope and inspiration for people around the world affected by diabetes; through active management, one can achieve their goals, dreams, and potential. The team models control of diabetes through diet, exercise and the use of the best treatment and technology available today. The message is usually delivered by team members on what they call “athlete days”. An athlete day is organised by team sponsors and they travel to different parts of the country and speak to doctors, members of the media, newly diagnosed diabetics, family members, friends and fellow Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics sharing stories, experiences and their ever changing schedule that doesn’t make managing diabetes easy.

Simon finished the racing season in St Louis, Missouri in early September, and was able to spend time doing athlete days. Arriving back in Bendigo in October time has been precious catching up with family and friends. In his spare time and between training Simon has been helping out at Harding Cycles bike shop who had been a great support to Simon’s introduction to the sport.

In November Simon will head to Rwanda for an 8 day stage race where we will also be giving out supplies, meeting with sufferers of diabetes and assisting in the education of doctors on world’s best practice. Before returning to the USA in late January 2010 to join his team mates with a racing season that will take them across USA, Europe and Africa, Simon is heading to Adelaide to speak and ride at the Ride To Cure Diabetes event which runs in conjunction with the Pro Tour Santos Tour Down Under. He will also be making a trip to Sydney to meet with leading endocrinologists and doctors at the children’s hospital in Westmead to talk about getting insulin to everyone who needs it in the world.

Simon is another example of being an ambassador of Bendigo’s rich heritage of cycling and being an inspiration in community, particularly those that may have a health need on the benefits of exercise diet and commitment.

See you on the road soon, God willing.

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