Sixteen year old Addyson Albershardt from Charlotte, North Carolina, a member of the new NOW and Novartis for MS professional women’s cycling team, described why she is proud to be apart of a new team that actively supports multiple sclerosis patients.

“I am riding for a greater cause,” Albershardt said.

TV personality and author Phil Keoghan launched the new team this month. While many know Keoghan for his reality series “The Amazing Race,” he is also heavily involved in MS fundraising. Besides racing in some of the biggest events on the calendar, the team will participate in rides with those affected by the disease to help spread awareness and give a bit more hope.

2011 NOW and NOVARTIS for MS roster:

Robin Farina – Charlotte, N.C.
Addyson Albershardt – Charlotte, N.C.
Erika Graves – Los Angeles, Calif.
Devon Haskell-Gorry – Santa Cruz, Calif.
Anne Samplonius – Boulder, Colo.
Christina Gokey-Smith – Denton, Texas

After a near-death scuba experience, Keoghan shaped his life around the idea of “No Opportunity Wasted,” also called NOW, which is a title sponsor for the team. NOW is a life attitude that he developed to help encourage to live a life fully and with few regrets. The other title sponsor is Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., which makes MS drugs.

The team will compete in National Racing Calendar events such as Nature Valley Grand Prix and Tour of Elk Grove, but also plans to ride in 10 of the National MS Society’s Bike MS rides. The women will team up to ride tandems with honorary team members, who are men and women who live with MS.

The MS mission is special for Albershardt, who counts Carla Swart among her most important mentors. Swart, a member of HTC-Highroad, died earlier this year after being hit by a truck while training in her native South Africa. When Swart was a member of the Lees-McRae collegiate team, she sometimes stayed at Albershardt’s house.

Swart’s mother has MS and she was involved with fundraising for related causes. After her death, friends and supporters set up the Swart MS Foundation to help carry through Carla’s dream of creating her own MS.

“She was a tremendous mentor for me and I feel like I can help other people in honor of her,” Albershardt said.