Diabetic Hero Raeymaekers’ Success at Tour of Turkey

10/05/2013  //     //  Road Bike, Road Bike News





“Never have I been so happy on my bike”



Thomas Raeymaekers, professional rider of Team Novo Nordisk, will most likely never forget about finishing the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey. The 19-year-old finished last in his first “Hors Catégorie” stage race; several times the Belgian had to struggle not to give up. Exactly two years after the worst day of his life, however, Raeymaekers finishing 175th won more than just another stage.


The prognosis was devastating: Of course he could keep on riding his bike, the doctors said to the 17-year-old back in April 2011. They meant riding to school and back. Riding fast and intensely? Unimaginably! “That was so hard! Riding meant everything to me” Thomas says. “Back then, my entire life fell apart.


Back in these days, the talented junior sportsman was fairly successful and trained hard for his sport. However this was when he lost track. “When I was left behind the peloton several times after no more than a kilometer, I knew something went wrong. I drank some seven to eight liters of water per day and lost about eight kilograms in only one week“, as the Belgian remembers. “That night, I ended up in hospital with a blood sugar that was way to high. Diabetes it was. When I had a first chat with my doctor, my only concern was: Am I still able to keep on racing? I didn’t care about my health, it was racing that mattered most to me.


The doctors’ point of view was that Thomas’ career shall proceed in front of a TV screen. In the end, it was precisely a TV broadcast that would eventually change the student’s life within days. “I was watching the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey; Alexander Efimkin won the stage race for the team that would later become Team Novo Nordisk. I had heard about this team before, but only then I started to look for it online. I remembered that it was something to do with Diabetes and all of a sudden I realized that racing could be possible again – despite Diabetes.


Raeymaekers leaves behind the doctors that had frustrated him for so long and goes to another hospital. “All of a sudden I started believing again and I knew that there must be a way.” There was a way back on his race bike, but it was a long one. “It was incredibly hard, particularly in the first months, when several times I was close to giving up.” as Raeymaekers describes his feelings. “Two years later I am a professional rider for Team Novo Nordisk that  had been nominated for the Turkish stage race. I have participated in the event and for the team that before had shown me that Diabetes does not stand for the end. It was extremely important for me to finish the race. Four days out of eight were a pure fight with myself and the time limits. I guess I have never suffered as much on a bike as I did during this week. Arriving on the final circuit in Istanbul on the last day, exactly two years after I was diagnosed, I think I have never been this happy on a bike before!



The professional from Team Novo Nordisk finished 37th in Istanbul, side by side with his Finish teammate Joonas Henttala and with the same total time as the stage winner Marcel Kittel. In the overall standing the 19-year-old Belgian finished 175th after 1222.8 kilometers of racing. Yet the ranking has never been as negligible as on this April 29th. Raeymaekers: “With 19 years, I have finished the race with the team that gave hope to me, motivation and faith.




Written by Stefan Schwenke – Team Novo Nordisk Public Relations Manager



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