Diabetes patient plans to cycle 18,000km for a slice of cake in Singapore

SINGAPORE - Diabetes may be a battle for many, but 27-year-old Chiara Ricciardi from Italy is not about to let that stop her from doing the things she enjoys - such as cycling just to eat a slice of cake.

Come June, the construction engineer will be embarking on a year-long cycling trip -potentially covering 18,000km- with her photographer beau Riccardo Rocchi, 33.

Their destination? Sunny Singapore.

Nevermind the long and winding road ahead of them, when asked about what they are looking forward to doing in Singapore, gung ho Chiara told AsiaOne that she wants to have a slice of the best cake in Singapore.

After all, the carbohydrate-laden snack, while a simple pleasure to many people, could be harmful to Chiara's health.

Her only weapons are an insulin pump and exercise.

And so it comes with no surprise that the duo's adventure has been aptly titled 'For a Piece of Cake'.

Chiara, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 11, hopes that the project will help create greater awareness about the disease.

Having type 1 diabetes means that her body cannot produce any insulin on its own. This is different from type 2 diabetes, which occurs when one's body does not produce enough insulin, or if the body cannot respond to insulin effectively.

She also hopes to inspire other diabetics by reminding them that they can live positively with diabetes. While this will not be their first long-distance cycle together (they previously cycled 1,600km from Trieste in Italy to Patras in Greece), it will be their longest trip yet and many obstacles are expected to pop up along the way.

One of the main challenges they face is, of course, the need to store insulin at 2 to 8 degrees Celcius while on the trip.

As a result, they have devised a special route so that she would be able to obtain a regular supply of insulin along the way. "The quantity of insulin for the current month will be divided between all of our bags, so that possible theft would not put us in critical situations," she said in an e-mail interview with AsiaOne.

It also helps that Chiara is already a sporty person and is well-versed with handling her blood sugar levels during and after sports. She adds that she is expecting to benefit from the experience as exercise helps reduce the insulin requirement of those with type 1 diabetes.

However, those are not the only problems the duo have anticipated. As with any long-distance journey, changes in climate and weather could greatly affect a traveller's plans.

For Chiara and Riccardo, the best way to prepare for this is to study their departure and travel times carefully so that they can arrive at their different pit-stops during the warmer seasons.

And of course, both Chiara and Riccardo have incorporated extra training sessions into their routines for the past four months. S ome of the strength and endurance exercises they have been doing include weight-lifting, aerobics, running and of course, biking.

Aside from eating cake, both Chiara and Riccardo are looking forward to taking their time to explore different cultures and meet with different people on their adventure.

From Italy, they will first cycle to Turkey through the Balkans, and then towards Iran and by the time they reach Dubai, they would be 7,000 km away from home. Mumbai, northern India and Myanmar are also on their schedule before they make their way through various countries in Southeast Asia and finally arrive in Singapore.

They expect to cover an average of 1,600km a month. Hats off to Chiara and Riccardo! We hope that cakes in Singapore make cycling halfway across the world worth it.