Cycling long distances with diabetes is no easy task.
For riders like Kaileigh Moore, real-time awareness of blood-sugar levels is crucial on 25-mile-plus jaunts that can precipitously cut glucose numbers that must be replenished at a moment’s notice.
“Normal people can go out with just their shoes and bike,” said the 22-year-old Saratoga Springs native, now living in Lake Placid. “I have to go out with [energy gel] packets and juice boxes.”
The hope is that one day, there will be a cure for the Type 1 diabetes that afflicts Moore. But until then, there will be the Saratoga Tour de Cure, a daylong bicycle ride aimed at raising money for research.
The annual event sponsored by the American Diabetes Association raises millions of dollars for the cause and draws thousands of cyclists from around the region, some of whom are diabetics. This year’s tour featured roughly 2,500 riders and 171 teams.
The event had already raised more than $1 million before the first cyclists pedaled off from Saratoga Springs High School early Sunday morning. Denise Nicastro, the associate director of the tour, anticipates the event will either reach or exceed the ambitious goal of $1.25 million by the time all donations are tallied later this month,
“We had about 500 more riders than last year,” she said of the event.
Now in its 22nd year, the ADA program has 90 tours nationwide. The Saratoga tour is in its 13th year and is ranked first in the state and third overall in the country.
The tour wends through Saratoga County with some small dips into neighboring Schenectady County. Riders choose between a variety of different lengths, ranging from 10 miles all the way up to 100 miles.
Anne Canavan of Queensbury and Robin Kenny of Glens Falls were prepared to cycle 50 miles for the cause. Kenny, who has ridden 100 miles before, convinced her friend to give the tour a whirl as she trains up to a half-triathlon.
“This will get us some miles,” Canavan said.
For others, like Jacky Whitman of Burnt Hills, the tour has a greater meaning. Diagnosed with diabetes three years ago, she started riding in the tour as a way to show her resolve in beating the disease and preventing it from getting a stranglehold on her life.
“I figured I should be doing it,” she said.
Whitman is among the 200-plus “red riders” — diabetic cyclists — who participated in the event Sunday. These cyclists sport red racing shirts and are cheered on by others in the tour, who are urged to chant “go red riders go” whenever they spot them on the course.
Whitman said the solidarity shown between the red riders and other cyclists is uplifting. Now riding in her second tour, she said it was something she noticed the first time she participated and that it was uplifting as she battled through 62.5 miles.
“It’s the only day of the year I like being a diabetic,” she said.
Moore, who was riding 25 miles, agreed. She still vividly recalled riding her first tour 10 years ago, when every cyclist that came upon her during the tour offered words of encouragement as she pedaled.
“I call this ‘Diabetes Christmas,’ ” she said with a smile. “I look forward to doing it every year.”