After spending one successful season with the Team Novo Nordisk’s development squad, Gerd de Keijzer moved up to the men’s professional team in 2015. Now in his third season, De Keijzer excels as a domestique as part of the world’s first all diabetes professional cycling team. In 2016, he showed his ongoing development when he raced his first 2.HC stage race, the high-altitude Tour of Utah, helping team leader Javier Megias (ESP) to earn a top 10 finish on Stage 5.
Growing up as an only child, de Keijzer fell in love with cycling at an early age and was already competing by age eight, the youngest age allowed in the Netherlands. Both his parents are passionate cycling fans and he spent many holidays going to bike races throughout Europe.
While at the Tour de France in 2003, de Keijzer started exhibiting the standard diabetes symptoms. His family took him to a team doctor during the race, who suggested de Keijzer had diabetes. They went to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at nine-years-old.
The Dutchman’s first question was whether he could continue competing. The doctors in France told him no. After a week in the hospital, de Keijzer returned to the Netherlands where his doctors told him that playing sports was one of the best ways to manage diabetes, and so he resumed riding. Throughout his junior years, he continued improving and started to win races.
When Team Novo Nordisk was formed in 2012, de Keijzer was invited to race with the development squad. After earning four top 10 places in 2014, including third at the Georgia State Road Race Championships, de Keijzer was invited to join Team Novo Nordisk for the 2015 season.
Off the bike, the 23-year-old enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, family and his dog, Caesar.
"I’m going to give my best to prove myself as a professional cyclist. Through this, I hope to be an inspiration to everyone affected by diabetes."
3rd Georgia state road race championship 2014
6th Georgia state criterium championship 2014
9th Tour of Knoxville 2014
6th Gainesville GP Road Race
7th Tour of America’s Dairyland, Fond du Lac Road Race
Tell us about when you were diagnosed and how you found out?
My family and I were following the Tour de France in our camper during my summer break, and I got sick.
I had all the usual symptoms of diabetes- no appetite, and was drinking a lot of water, but it was super hot that summer so we never thought that it could be diabetes.
However, my condition grew worse, so I went to a doctor and told him my symptoms. He checked my blood glucose and told me that it was very high.
After that, I went to a local hospital in France and was officially diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
What was your initial reaction?
The first thing I wanted to know was, am I able to race my bike again?
How did your family/friends/fellow athletes react?
My parents didn’t know what to do at first because they had no experience with diabetes, but after a while, everybody got used to it- family, friends, and myself. It’s part of my life now.
Did you think your days as an athlete were over? Did others? What did your doctor say?
My first thought was, I’m done racing- because that’s what some doctors were saying. So my world collapsed and I didn’t know what to do.
After a week in the French hospital, I went back home to the Netherlands, and there my health care team told me that I could enjoy sports while living with diabetes!
What was it like riding with diabetes and how did you adjust?
In the beginning, it was very hard because I had no experience. So I checked my blood glucose a lot!
But my diabetes doctor and I learned from the info I got from checking, and I was able to discover what works best for me and how to manage highs and lows while riding.
Tell us about how you got started in your sport.
My mom, my dad and myself were always huge fans of cycling, and, at almost every pro race in the Netherlands, we were standing next to the course with our camper. And almost every holiday we went to races in others countries like the Tour de France, the Tour of Belgium and so on.
So I just kind of grew up with the sport.
When did you start competing?
When I was 7 years old I got my first little race bike and started training. You can’t race before age 8 in the Netherlands, but when I turned 8, I immediately started racing locally.
When you first started competing, did you tell anyone (teammates/coaches/trainers) about your diabetes?
That was the first thing I did when I was diagnosed at age 9. I told everybody that had type 1 diabetes: fellow athletes, school friends and teachers- everybody I know knows that I have type 1 diabetes
How/when did you know cycling was something you wanted to do professionally?
Well, when I was about 10 years old (less than a year after I was diagnosed) I started to place in my first races. When I was 11, I started to win my first races and began competing with the best racers in the Netherlands.
As I got older, the races began getting tougher, so winning got harder, of course, but I still got good results. When I got the offer to race for the Team Novo Nordisk Development team, I knew it was a big chance to develop myself in the sport, and possibly to make it to the Pro team and achieve the dream I had since I was a small child, to race for a professional cycling team.
What do you think is your biggest achievement in your athletic career?
To be a part of Team Novo Nordisk!
What is your favorite memory from a race/competition?
Of course my first race win is up there, but also the experience and memories I have from my first American criterium. It was awesome!
Being part of Team Novo Nordisk
How did you come to join Team Novo Nordisk?
I got the invite from the Development Team Director, Daniel Holt, to come and race for the team in the summer of 2012. I stayed in the team house for a month and raced some American crits and road races.
At the end of 2013, I got an offer to race for the Pro team in 2014- of course I said yes!
How has your life changed since you joined the team (both as an athlete and as a person)?
I’ve become even more professional in my sport than I was before, and of course, my results are getting better and my motivation to improve is always getting stronger.
I’ve also matured quite a bit. I moved to the U.S. on my own when I was 18, and I’ve been standing on my own two feet since.
From now on I’ve got responsibilities, both as an athlete and a member of Team Novo Nordisk to live a professional life and to be an example for all of the others affected by diabetes.
Off the bike (Other Interests)
How do you spend your time when you’re not training or racing? Any other passions?
When I’m not on the bike, I try to spend as much time with my girlfriend as possible. Besides that, I love to walk my dog and play video games to relax.
What do you want to do when you retire?
I would like to finish school and become a sports teacher.
What are the three most important things in your life?
My loved ones
A healthy life (in no particular order)
Married? Kids? Pets?
I have a lovely girlfriend named Lauren and an awesome dog named Caesar.
Get To Know TNN: Gerd de Keijzer
While new to Team Novo Nordisk’s men’s pro team for the 2020 season, the 25-year-old Gerd de Keijzer raced three seasons with the pro squad from 2014-2017. The Dutchman briefly stepped away from the professional ranks before returning in 2019 to Team Novo Nordisk’s development squad to gain experience. Based on his results, he earned…
TNN Talks: Gerd de Keijzer
You might have known that Pro rider Gerd de Keijzer began cycling with his local cycling club when he was seven years old and that he was diagnosed with diabetes while following the Tour de France in a camper with his family. But did you know that Gerd also loves “Band of Brothers” and is unable to race…