Wyatt Grainger was sitting in a hospital, unsure of what it all meant.
In January, waiting for doctors’ orders, he had just one question: “What about cycling?”
That was a critical concern for the 14-year-old when he was told he had Type 1 diabetes.
He’d been competitive in the sport for the last four years, and even started a cycling club in Red Deer called Equipe Cycle Club after watching the Tour of Alberta in Edmonton.
In the last three years, the club has grown from five of his friends to 25 members who ride a couple times a week. They have a website, their own kit, and travel to races regularly throughout the summer.
Grainger said it’s been a challenge trying to manage cycling with his diabetes (sweet treats like Skittles and Rockets are his go to right now), but his most recent experience has him believing anything is possible.
Grainger just returned from a week with Team Novo Nordisk cycling camp for youth who are recruited from around the world who compete for spots on either the junior or development team, which may one day lead to a position on their professional team.
The program is also made up of all diabetic athletes, with a mandate to “inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes.”
Shortly after Grainger was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he looked the team up on Instagram and emailed them to see how he could get started.
They responded with a training program for him to follow. But he also received the news that at 14, he was a year too young to participate in the camp this summer in Athens, Ga. They told him he would definitely be invited to camp next year.
His dad, Sean, then followed with a email, thanking the team for their support and sending along the training program. He eventually received a message from the founder of the team, Phil Southerland.
Southerland said since Wyatt’s racing age is 15, as long as someone was willing to accompany him to the camp, he’d be allowed to participate. Sean jumped at the chance to help his son.
Wyatt said while at the camp, it was amazing to interact with athletes all over the world who were just like him.
“Basically a professional style camp, we rode 85 kilometres three times throughout the week,” he said. “It was a good experience… I really learned what it takes and what it means to be a professional cyclist and an ambassador for the sport.”
He’s even found a role model on the pro team as well, Canadian Reid McClure who is based out of Calgary.
“I really look up to all of the pros and how they put a lot of work into it and how focused they are. I think that’s really cool that they’ve worked so hard and they’re just great ambassadors for the sport,” Wyatt said.
“Managing diabetes is a really hard thing to do and professional cycling is also a really hard thing to do. So to combine those two things is just really exceptional.”
Wyatt has to give himself insulin four times a day to manage his diabetes, as well as eating a very specific diet. He also has to carefully regulate his blood sugar leading up to, during and after races and rides.
He said cyclists from all over the world shared tips on how they deal with their diabetes at the camp.
“You’re constantly learning something. There’s so much information. Learning from the other campers at the program was very beneficial. How does a cyclist in England or the United States manage their diabetes? It was really cool,” he said.
Wyatt is going into Grade 10 at Lindsay Thurber next year and will cycle through the summer mostly in Alberta, then anxiously await news about the junior or development team spot. He won’t be deterred if he doesn’t make it this time around, as either way he’ll be back in Georgia again next summer to participate in the camp.
Wyatt one day hopes to succeed at the highest level in the sport and spread the message of hope for other people with diabetes.
“I’d really like to get onto the team. I hope I can achieve something at the camp next year …” he said. “I would be really happy if all the work I had done, all this training I have done has paid off and I’ve gotten to the top level.”