Frenchman Charles Planet began his career in mountain biking and cyclocross but decided to try racing on the road when he heard about an all-diabetes professional cycling team. Now in his fifth year with the squad, Planet continues to develop into a promising and talented General Classification rider. He displayed this in 2016 at Team Novo Nordisk’s World Tour stage race debut during the Tour de Pologne, where heavy rain and epic weather conditions on top of a challenging race profile caused more than half of the peloton to abandon.
In his American debut and at just 19 years old, Planet showed his successful transfer to the road when he earned the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer ‘Most Courageous Rider’ jersey on Stage 1 of the Tour of California (2014), holding on to the jersey through stage 3. Additional career highlights include a top-10 at Stage 1 of Canada’s Tour de Beauce (2015) and a top-10 in Stage 5 at the Tour de Korea (2016).
Planet’s father was a cyclist so it was no surprise when the 8-year-old decided to start competing in mountain bike races. Two years later Planet was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and initially, he thought his life was over. But his family helped him to resume a normal childhood that included sports. Planet, who is a former Lorraine mountain bike and cyclocross champion, was also part of the winning squad at the 2013 French National Mountain Bike Team Relay Championship.
In 2013, with an impressive resume in hand, Planet reached out to Team Novo Nordisk and said he’d be interested in switching to road racing. The team invited him to race as a stagiaire in America where he won the Litespeed BMW Twilight Criterium in August and was ninth overall at the Georgia Cycling Grand Prix. It only took a month and a half before he was offered a contract with the professional team.
"I train hard, race hard, manage my diabetes and never abandon my dreams."
10th – Tour de Beauce, Stage 1
Most Courageous Rider – Amgen Tour of California, Stages 1 & 2
8th – Grand Prix de Saguenay
36th in GC – Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey
Eight-time Lorraine Champion (CX, Road and MTB)
Selected with French National Team for MTB World Cup
Tell us about when you were diagnosed and how you found out.
I was 10 years old, and for some weeks I was very thirsty and needed to pee every five minutes. My parents were very worried, so they wanted to test my blood glucose. Later, the doctor confirmed that I was living with type 1 diabetes.
What was your initial reaction?
I remember that I didn’t quite understand what was happening. Nobody really explained what was going on.
My parents put me in the car and drove me to the hospital. And I remember they prepared a bag with some clothes, like we were going somewhere for a couple of days. And it turned out to be the hospital.
The doctor put me on a bed, with a drip in my arm (I think it was insulin). My reaction was not too bad, because I was so young and didn’t fully understand what happened. But for my family, it was a really traumatic.
How did your family/friends/fellow athletes react?
At first, it was really difficult for my family- it was all so new. Nobody in my family had diabetes, and my parents knew very little about the condition. So in the beginning, they wondered, ‘‘How could this happen to our son? We did everything for him, what have we done wrong?’’
I remember that a lot of friends and family came to see me in the hospital, and they all supported my family and me.
Did you think your days as an athlete were over? Did others? What did your doctor say?
At first, yes- I did think my days as an athlete were over. But since I was so young, nobody was concerned with the future of my cycling, only my overall health was important.
My doctor helped my family and me a lot with supportive words and helped us to understand that I could live and thrive with type 1 diabetes. It was a great help for us.
What was it like riding with diabetes and how did you adjust?
Time and experience is the best way to adjust, I think. If I am motivated, with a strong mind, I can become a great athlete with good diabetes management. I just need to know and listen to my body, and in time, I will succeed!
Tell us about how you got started in your sport.
I got started through my parents. They did everything for me. Without them, I would be nothing now.
When did you start competing?
I began competing immediately after I started cycling, because I was born with the spirit of competition and the desire to win!
When you first started competing, did you tell anyone (teammates/coaches/trainers) about your diabetes?
Yes- why not? I have never been ashamed! I told the people who took care of me. It’s important, I think, because they need to understand. Sometimes you can have some bad moments, and it’s good if everyone is aware.
How/when did you know cycling was something you wanted to do professionally?
From the moment I started. I’ve always believed in myself. I’ve always worked very hard and given absolutely everything for my passion, cycling!
Now, I can say I’ve realized my dream to live my passion- even with diabetes. I always wanted to become a professional cyclist; it’s in my blood. I’m a competitor, and I worked very hard for this.
What do you think is your biggest achievement in your athletic career?
My biggest achievement will be when my team or I win that first race. And I hope this happens soon, so we can show people with diabetes what can be possible!
My second achievement will be that my team becomes a pillar of the World Tour, and we can participate one day in the Tour de France.
What is your favorite memory from a race/competition?
My biggest memory from my first year as a professional is the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California, where I won the Most Courageous Rider jersey.
I worked so hard in a breakaway, and it was an honor for me to hold this jersey for two days, riding with the best cyclists in the world.
Being part of Team Novo Nordisk
How did you come to join Team Novo Nordisk?
In 2013, I came on as a stagiaire on the Development team. My parents knew the team, and I sent my list of results to Development Team Director, Daniel Holt, and he gave me the opportunity to race for one month with the team.
I had some good results: I won two races, and earned a lot of top 5s, so, in 2014, I signed a contract with the Pro team. It was a big achievement for me!
How has your life changed since you joined the team (both as an athlete and as a person)?
I live my passion, so I live my dream. What else is there?
I enjoy my life. I enjoy every moment of it as an athlete- when I race, when I train, when I’m with my family- because I know that this is an incredible opportunity.
Off the bike (Other Interests)
How do you spend your time when you’re not training or racing? Any other passions?
I spend time with my family, friends and of course my lovely girlfriend.
I try to do some others activities, but not lot of others sports, because I don’t have the time to dedicate. Cycling is a very demanding sport.
What do you want to do when you retire?
I would like to become a director on a cycling team, a coach or Directeur Sportif…something in the sport!
What are the three most important things in your life?
To be healthy
Married? Kids? Pets?
I live with my girlfriend.
Planet Puts TNN On The Map At Tirreno-Adriatico
Race: Tirreno-Adriatico, stage 2 Start/Finish: Camaiore/Pomerance Distance: 229km Pomerance, Italy — Team Novo Nordisk rider Charles Planet escaped into the Thursday’s main breakaway with five other riders and spent the next 200km ahead of the peloton in the twisting and turning Tuscan countryside. Planet, 24, found optimal cooperation with his fellow riders on a sunny…
Planet Hangs On To Most Courageous Rider Jersey
Folsom, Calif — Team Novo Nordisk’s Charles Planet held on to the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey for the second consecutive day at the Amgen Tour of California. Planet earned the jersey after spending more than 100 miles in a six-man breakaway on Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California. Monday’s…
Solid Start in Taiwan For French Neo-Pro
Taoyuan County, Taiwan — Team Novo Nordisk’s new signee, 20-year-old Charles Planet, continues to prove himself by finishing as the team’s best-placed rider for the second consecutive day in Taiwan. Monday’s stage two of the Tour de Taiwan was a 151.4-km race beginning and ending in Taoyuan County. The stage featured a steep category one…
Wet Start in Taiwan
Taipei City, Taiwan — Team Novo Nordisk’s Charles Planet finished in the top 20 on Sunday’s stage 1 of the Tour de Taiwan. The opening stage of the Tour de Taiwan was a 52-kilometer race around Taipei City. With rain pouring down throughout the day, the technical corners of the criterium course produce much nervous…