I don’t even think that I have diabetes. I feel like everyone else. I spend every day enjoying my life and try to be happy with all the challenges I face.
Proudly returning for his eighth season racing in the American ProTour team’s Changing Diabetes jersey, puncheur Charles Planet managed to rack up some solid results for Team Novo Nordisk in 2020 despite the disruption to the competitive season.
Multiple top tens in races like Circuito de Getxo in Spain, Tour de Hongrie and Okolo Slovenska were augmented by an impressive 19th on a tough course at the French National Championships and he rounded out the season well at a brutal edition of Paris-Tours.
The Frenchman made team history at the Tour of Poland in 2019 by winning the Most Active Rider jersey on the opening stage of the WorldTour race and protecting it until the finish. This accomplishment serves as the team’s first WorldTour jersey.
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. The 26-year-old from the Vosges region continues to develop into a promising and talented General Classification rider.
Along with an impressive display against WorldTour opposition at the Tour of Poland, Planet earned the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer ‘Most Courageous Rider’ jersey on Stage 1 of the Tour of California.
Additional season highlights include starring in the breakaway at Milano-Sanremo, taking fourth on the Prologue and finishing seventh overall at the Tour of Estonia, 10th on the Queen Stage of the Tour of Denmark and eighth on Stage 3 of the Tour of Slovaquie.
Additional career highlights include taking a podium finish at the Tour de Hongrie Prologue (2018), fifth on Stage 2 and eighth overall at the Tour of Estonia (2018), and top 10s on Stage 1 of Canada’s Tour de Beauce (2015) and Stage 5 at the Tour de Korea (2016).
Planet’s father was a cyclist, so it was no surprise when the eight-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.
- 7th – Circuito de Getxo-Memorial Hermanos Otxoa
- 9th – Okolo Slovenska/Tour de Slovaquie, Stage 2
- 11th – Tour de Hongrie, Stage 1
- 7th – GC, Tour of Estonia
- 6th – Points GC, UAE Tour
- 16th, Japan Cup Cycle Road Race
- 16th, Mountain Classification, Tour de Pologne
- 8th – GC, Tour of Estonia
- 2nd- Tour de Hongrie, Stage
- 16th, Japan Cup Cycle Road Race
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?
- My family
- My girlfriend
- To be healthy