Discovering Europe on two wheels
Twelve countries in thirty-one days
Diabetic Paul Farelly finished his European Cycle Challenge from Portsmouth to Istanbul
Leverkusen – Paul Farrelly had double-checked the route and got his body in shape for his aspiring trip. However, the experiences the 52-year-old from Hampshire, United Kingdom, made during his ride across Europe could not be found in road maps and training books. On June 2, he arrived in Istanbul – with 3,200 kilometers in his legs and many stories in his backpack. “This tour was a huge adventure and a long-held dream of mine, but also a journey of discovering our continent and its diversity”, says Paul, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2000. His pancreas does not produce the vital hormone insulin due to an incorrect reaction of his body’s immune system. Therefore, he has to measure his blood glucose levels regularly – especially at times of physical exertion like cycling over 120 kilometers a day.
The winner of the Bayer Diabetes Care DreamFund™ 2008 competition had started his gruelling journey on May 2 in Portsmouth, United Kingdom – with a road map, a compass, and thousands of kilometers ahead of him. Despite his training and preparation, the trip wasn’t a piece of cake: Staying on track and in time was sometimes more difficult than expected. “My route kept changing all the time due to the weather or the road conditions and I frequently had to stop and ask for directions”, explains Paul. Although he had many nice encounters, not all of the well-meant tips turned out to be helpful. A policeman in Belgium pointed him into the wrong direction, so that he had to ride through the entire city center of Brussels for his meeting with representatives of Bayer HealthCare. For other delays, Paul was responsible himself: “I underestimated the size of Romania, so I had to adapt my plans and figure out how to make it to Istanbul on time.” This included taking the train or a taxi on a few days. “I know now that public transport is not Romania’s strongest suit”, states Paul. “The train from Sebes to Bucharest took eight hours – for a distance of about 100 kilometers.”
But the beautiful scenery and the uniqueness of each country he crossed through made up for the sometimes adverse conditions and turned his endeavor into a personally enriching experience. “Europe has many different and interesting faces”, knows Paul. When he crossed the border to Belgium, only the changing road signs indicated that he had entered another country, since everything still looked familiar. But in Eastern countries like Hungary, Romania, or Bulgaria he sometimes felt like being pushed back in time. “I experienced a shift away from modern Europe, with shops everywhere and well-maintained roads, back into a place where nobody speaks English and the streets are very interesting to ride on.” The dichotomy between the old and new was underlined by seening old buildings next to flourisihing mobile phone shops and fastfood restaurants, while people in expensive cars drove next to horses and carts. When crossing into Austria afterwards, the difference in culture and style became evident once again: “Here, everything is new and clean, and even the bus shelters are neat.”
Apart from external circumstances such as steeply hills, nasty weather, or inconveniences caused by punctures and fully booked hotels, also the physical strain of the tour took its toll. The Briton was torn between allowing himself enough time to rest and keeping schedules and arrangements. “It has been a really tough ride, but I decided to listen to my body, if it told me to take a day off from cycling”, states Paul. “I did not want to break any records, but was just trying to get to Istanbul.” He monitored his blood glucose values regularly with his portable testing system and was able to keep them at a constant level, among others by closely watching his intake of carbohydrates. An innovative meter from Bayer and excellent medical support also gave him the best possible chance of completing the ride.
When he arrived in Turkey, he nevertheless was relieved that the riding was over. “I felt a true sense of achievement having done twelve countries and 3,2000 kilometers in 31 days”, admits Paul, who did not finish the tour alone. At the Bulgarian-Turkish border he was welcomed by a group of cyclists from the Turkish Cycling Federation, who rode with him during his last stage. When he reached the Bosporus pass, about 100 people, among them international TV crews and photographers, were waiting for him. “Everybody was waving and there was a stage with a ramp for my bike. It was just like being in the Tour de France”, describes Paul. He is happy to have realized his “marathon” dream of cycling from Europe to Asia. “I wanted to prove that people with diabetes can still live a normal life and reach their goals despite their chronic disorder. Just like I did.”
While cycling from Portsmouth to Istanbul, Paul kept a daily travel diary. His blog and photos from his tour can be viewed at www.bayerdiabetes.co.uk/europeancyclechallenge.
About Bayer HealthCare Diabetes Care
Bayer HealthCare, Diabetes Care supports customers in 100 countries and stands in a long tradition of leading the way in diabetes care product innovation since the introduction of CLINITEST reagent tablets in 1941. The face of diabetes care was changed in 1969 when the first portable blood glucose meter and test strips were introduced. Bayer HealthCare further innovated diabetes management by being the first company to introduce a suite of blood glucose monitors with No Coding™ technology. The BREEZE® 2 and CONTOUR® blood glucose monitoring systems offer people with diabetes an unparalleled choice in diabetes management systems. Bayer HealthCare Diabetes Care global headquarters is located in Tarrytown, New York, in the United States and operates as part of Bayer HealthCare LLC, a member of the worldwide Bayer HealthCare group. The Headquarters for the region Europe-MERA is located in Basel as part of Bayer Consumer Care AG, in Basel.
About Bayer HealthCare
The Bayer Group is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, nutrition and high-tech materials. Bayer HealthCare, a subsidiary of Bayer AG, is one of the world’s leading, innovative companies in the healthcare and medical products industry and is based in Leverkusen, Germany. The company combines the global activities of the Animal Health, Bayer Schering Pharma, Consumer Care and Medical Care divisions. Bayer HealthCare’s aim is to discover and manufacture products that will improve human and animal health worldwide. Find more information at www.bayerhealthcare.com.
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