April 28, 2009 in Sports

Then & Now: Moscow grad rides for top cycling team

Diabetics overcome
By The Spokesman-Review
The Spokesman-Review photo

Now: Diabetic Kyle Rose gets ready to ride in 3,000-mile race.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Kyle Rose likes to say how amazed he is that a handful of diabetics in a hotel room turned their passion for bicycling into big-time competition.

He’s even more amazed he is now under the Team Type I umbrella.

The 1997 graduate of Moscow, Idaho, High School is a member of the Team Type I elite team, not to be confused with the Team Type I pro team, pro women’s team, triathlon team or Type 2 team.

“The shock of being diagnosed makes you doubt all aspects of life,” Rose, 29, said of learning at age 16 that he had diabetes. “That’s why I’m so happy to be part of a team whose mission statement is to inspire those with diabetes. … If you manage it you can aspire to do anything, especially using the tools we use.”

Rose is gearing up to compete in RAAM, the Race Across America, a 3,000-mile journey from Oceanside, Calif., to Annapolis, Md.

RAAM is billed as the “World’s Toughest Bicycle Race,” and was just the platform collegiate racers Phil Southerland (Georgia) and Joe Eldridge (Auburn) were looking for when they formed Team Type I in 2004 after discovering their common bond.

The first splash was made when they won RAAM in 2006 and it has grown from there.

Team Type I set a record in winning RAAM in 2007, with Rose part of the support crew, so inspired that he made it his goal to participate. He was an alternate last year when the team was second to a Finnish team and is part of the eight-man team that will push off on June 20.

“Our goal is to disprove the stereotypes about people with diabetes and prove that if we control our blood sugars we can accomplish great things,” he said.

Rose never envisioned this type of participation growing up in Moscow. He played soccer and did some running and tennis, but his biking was recreational. He was aware of professional racing because his father, a foreign language and literature professor at the University of Idaho now retired, taught in France on occasion.

“The area we lived in, right in the middle of the Alps, the Tour d’France would pass right in front of our driveway,” Rose said. “I developed an enthusiasm for the sport at an early age but I never knew I’d be racing.”

After a trip to the Idaho state soccer playoffs and graduating, Rose went to Cornell to study chemical engineering.

“It was a tough time for me,” he said. “It was the first time I’d been on my own in general, and to boot I had diabetes to deal with. It took some tough love from my endocrinologist telling me this was something I couldn’t ignore. It took a little bit of me learning from my mistakes. I wasn’t managing my diabetes like I should be but it was easy to see how miserable I was going to be.

“I had some up and down years.”

He gives a lot of credit to the Type 3 diabetics – family and friends who support diabetics.

Rose began to learn about the technology available for diabetics and when he graduated he went to work in San Francisco for a start-up company in the medical/diabetes industry.

He met Southerland at a diabetes conference after the startup was bought by Abbott Labs, which got involved as one of the first sponsors for Team Type I in 2006.

Getting ready to race across the country would seem to be a full-time job.

“I want to say yes, but I still have a day job,” Rose said. “Now I work as a diabetes consultant to various companies. … I’m more into marketing instead of research and development.”

In 2008, 40 teams and 25 solo riders started RAAM.

Team Type I splits into two groups of four, with half riding for about four or five hours while the other half goes ahead to try to sleep. The riding is usually solo, although there are a few places where several riders may set up a draft line. For the most part, a solo rider will go all out for about a half-hour, then pass the flag to a teammate.

“Logistically, it’s very hard to coordinate,” Rose said. “There are real strict rules; a lot of safety.”

Southerland and Eldridge no longer ride RAAM since they formed the pro team in 2008. They ride against the best in such competitions as the Tour of California and Tour d’Georgia with a goal of one day tackling the Tour d’France.

The pro team has four Type I diabetics, a number that Rose would like to see increase by one.

“It’s what I aspire to,” he said. “When I watch Phil and Fabio (Calabria), it’s so inspiring. My role on the team has progressed but I’m not quite sure I could handle the 35-mile-an-hour turns (in a congested race).”

Dealing with diabetes is the easy part.

“When I’m riding, or just living life, I have two tools on me,” Rose said, referring to his continuous blood glucose monitor and his insulin pump. “I’m able to fine-tune what I need to keep my blood sugar in check, especially in my training.”

The eight-rider women’s pro team has two Type I diabetics. The other teams are all diabetics, 14 for Rose’s elite team, nine with Team Type 2, which is also doing RAAM, and 10 triathletes, all Type I.

“Our goal is to spread education and awareness of diabetes management,” Rose said. “We’re proving it by winning some races. When I’m hammering on the bike, I think of kids newly diagnosed. I remember when I was 16, looking for a role model.”

Now, amazingly, he is one.

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