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Battling cystic fibrosis with bike racing

Dr. James Wilson, a professor and cystic fibrosis researcher for 20 years, is promoting cycling as a deterrent to CF's degenerative effects. Photo courtesy Tim Mullin

Dr. James Wilson has been racing bikes for a decade, and studying cystic fibrosis for 20 years. This year, he’s putting the two together to improve the lives of those living with the genetic disease.

Wilson created Team CF to raise awareness of the disease and to aggressively promote exercise in children and young adults with CF as a way to improve their condition.

“There is no better way to turn a child on to exercise than to get them on a bike,” said Wilson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Medical School.

Wilson’s new road, mountain and cyclocross team is accepting applications from those who are either living with cystic fibrosis or are simply racers interested in being associated with raising awareness. Six-time national 24-hour solo champion Chris Eatough is coaching the mountain bike division.

Cystic fibrosis is the most common genetic disease in the U.S. Caucasian population, Wilson said.

“It is a recessive genetic disease, which means that 25 percent of the offspring will have the disease if both parents are carriers of the disease,” he said. “One in 25 adults carry a defective CF capable of being transmitted to the offspring although they do not have CF. Children born with CF are unable to clear mucus from the lungs. As a result, they develop chronic lung infections that eventually destroy the lung architecture leading to death due to respiratory failure. There is no cure for CF although good clinical care may allow survival into young adulthood.”

And this is where cycling comes in.

High schooler Manny Goguen was featured in the April 2009 VeloNews. He is now on Team CF.

“Aerobic exercise like cycling helps those with CF breath better by clearing mucus and the associated infections and building strength to improve respiratory effort,” he said.

“The ironic thing,” said Wilson, “is that I’ve spent two decades in the lab researching cystic fibrosis, and the most helpful thing I can do now is to get these young people outside on bicycles.”

Team CF has mountain and road/cyclocross teams. Manny Goguen, a high schooler with cystic fibrosis, is on the road and cyclocross team. (VeloNews featured Goguen in the April 2009 issue.) Goguen won a junior crit last year, and placed sixth at cyclocross nationals the year before.

To those accepted, Team CF is offering free cycling clothing plus discounts on bikes and gear. Sponsors include Trek/Gary Fisher/Bontrager, SRAM, Verge Sports, Infinit Nutrition and Human Zoom.

To apply for the team, or to find out more about cystic fibrosis, visit TeamCF.org.

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