Shad Ireland, an athlete with kidney disease that requires him to spend 20 hours a week on dialysis, hopes to inspire some 27 million other Americans like him with his efforts to ‘Take on the Tour’ and ride key stages of the world’s greatest cycling races.
As a cyclist with kidney disease, he plans to ride some of the toughest stage race routes across the nation and in the world over the course of the next year. His effort will culminate at the 2012 Tour de France next July. “My goal is to ride several of the hardest grand tours around the world to try and inspire, engage and ultimately provide tools and resources for individuals that may develop a kidney diagnosis,” he told BikeRadar.
Ireland developed kidney disease at the age of ten and has since had two failed kidney transplants. At one point, when he was 18 years old, doctors gave him a just 7 years to live. “One in nine people worldwide will develop a kidney diagnosis… and obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes,” he said. “A lot of the things that cause kidney disease can be managed and prevented. I want to help keep people from becoming a patient like myself.”
Despite the sentence given by doctors, he became the only dialysis patient to complete an IronMan at the age of 32. Now 39, he is on a mission to inspire patients across America and around the world with the Take on the Tour initiative. “I was the first patient to do IronMan, I’ve ridden my bike across the country and in 2009 I rode 4,639 miles and I had to dialysis every day in order to survive,” Ireland said. “I fell in love with cycling. I’m trying to show people that even if you face a challenge, you can do anything you set your mind to, you just have to believe in the possibility of it all.”
Ireland’s Take on the Tour rides kicked off at the 2011 Amgen Tour of California in May where he rode three of the eight stages in advance of the professional men’s field. He received four to five hours of kidney dialysis during the day and began riding each route in the middle of the night. “I’ve been doing this for 29 years and I don’t look sick and I don’t look like I’m a dialysis patient, most of which are debilitated by this point,” he said. “Cycling and triathlon saved my life.”
Take on the Tour also includes riding stages of the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, in August along with Australia’s Tour Down Under, Giro D’Italia, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France.
Ireland will also participate in the Lanai Hawaii Triathlon, Orange County Triathlon and the New York City Marathon.