Oliver Behringer: You’re on the same planet but it’s a different world.
19 December 2020
I spent three weeks in January training on Gran Canaria so I was ready to start 2020. I was lucky to be selected to race Tour Colombia and Tour du Rwanda because they basically were the only races the team ended up doing before the coronavirus pandemic.
I was happy to return to Rwanda even though I have a love/hate relationship with the race. I’ve only finished it once from the three times I’ve started it. Regardless of my results, I love the race. The support for the event across the country is incredible; you can feel their passion and that support is something you don’t see in Europe. Even if I DNF (did not finish) every year, I will always have so many positive experiences of racing in Rwanda.
The first year I went there, David Lozano won a stage. It was my first ever race as a pro and to have a teammate win was amazing. It was also my first time in Africa. I expected it to be what you see on TV but it wasn’t anything like that. Rwanda is so clean, the roads were amazing, better than many of the roads we race on in Europe. The people are super kind and passionate about the Tour du Rwanda.
The second time we went to Rwanda, we spent ten days at altitude in the country prior to the race so it gave us a good amount of time to get to know the people.
Going there, especially as someone living with diabetes, I realize how fortunate we are in our countries to have access to the insulin that saves our lives and gives us quality of life.
Compared to the privilege I have coming from Switzerland, it’s like you’re living on the same planet but it’s a different world.
Culture and Perspective
One of the things that’s beautiful about cycling is how it exposes us to many different cultures. Our teammates come from all over the world. You get different perspectives from different cultures. David Lozano comes from Spain. I come from Switzerland. At home, we’d never eat dinner at the same time but during races and training camps, we shift towards each other and eat together.
I enjoy adapting towards other cultures and getting their views because I realize the way I live at home isn’t the only way to live. It’s not necessarily the right way, it’s just one possibility. Being in a multinational cycling team gives you the opportunity to learn.
When I was a kid, I never knew cycling would give me these richer experiences. All I wanted to do was ride my bike and race but after getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 11, I struggled with my cycling and diabetes management.
It was a four-year journey of believing my cycling dream was over. Then visiting the Tour de Suisse in 2011 changed all that for me. I was 15 years old at this time. This team had a pre-race meet and greet with a press conference and a short ride afterwards.
[CEO and Co-Founder] Phil Southerland motivated me to keep chasing the dream I had since I was a young boy – to be a bike racer. He gave me his book and signed it, “Dear Oliver, welcome to the team. Dream big, ride fast.” The welcome to the team part really got me. He instantly welcomed me into their community. I couldn’t believe it.
It was enough for me to make me believe I could chase my dreams.
That was one of the best things that happened to me. It changed my life. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back now, I realize that. When I met Phil, he was able to help me with the experience he and the team had already acquired in managing diabetes and sport.
That whole experience helps me understand people living with diabetes who reach out to us for help because I was in the same place as them. Today, I am a professional cyclist with the same team that inspired me all those years ago to not give up my cycling dream. It’s unbelievable. I hope to be that guy to inspire and show someone else what’s possible with diabetes and make a dream for them come true.