Q&A: Stephen Clancy of the World’s First All-Diabetes Professional Cycling Team

A conversation with one of the members of the world's first all-diabetes professional cycling team, who are set to compete at the 2018 Tour de France.

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On the 16th and 17th of November the Diabetes Professional Care 2016 will return to London Olympia. The leading free-to-attend two accredited conference and exhibition provides a forum for discovering and developing the future of diabetes care.

It also allows visitors to check out state-of-the-art technology, hear about the latest thinking and research, while also networking with like-minded industry experts.

Among those holding a workshop session is Stephen Clancy, part of the Team Novo Nordisk cycling team – the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team, who are set to compete at the 2018 Tour de France.

Stephen will be running a ‘meet and greet’ workshop, looking at how the team balances racing at the top level of cycling with managing diabetes. Here, Stephen shares his thoughts on diabetes care, tips and advice.


How did you first discover that you had diabetes? How would you describe the initial care you received?

I was part of the Irish U23 Cycling Development team who recommended to get routine blood tests done which showed up the elevated blood sugar levels. Once the results came back it explained the reason why I had been showing all the symptoms of pre-diagnosis, which I hadn’t realized meant I could have diabetes.

Don’t let it hold you back. You don’t have to stop pursuing your dreams. It’s an obstacle that can be overcome, not a barrier.

How has cycling helped you deal with your diagnosis?

For me, being a cyclist is already a good reason to watch my diet, but also the activity helps my insulin sensitivity. When I am sick, injured or during my off season and not cycling much, I find it more difficult to control everything.

How do you and the team balance racing at the top level of cycling with managing diabetes?

We all wear a continuous glucose monitor which helps. Also through experience, each of us has a good idea of what works best for us in relation to foods and dosages. Of course every day is different but we use the information gathered to continue to improve our control.

The team competing at a race in China.
The team competing at a race in China.

Do you have any clever tips when it comes to diet that you could share with other sufferers?

Figure out how different types of foods affect your blood sugar levels. Even if you count the carbohydrates, every meal is different. Learn from your mistakes and try to improve each time.

What do you like most about being a diabetes ambassador?

When I was diagnosed, I didn’t really know anyone with diabetes. And when I was told that I should only cycle a mile when diagnosed I thought my dream was over. Now I feel like I can help people who are in a similar situation to how I was. It’s such a rewarding feeling to be part of a team that educates, empowers and inspires other people with the conditions and this gives me even more motivation to train and race.

What advice would you give to someone who has just found out they have diabetes?

Don’t let it hold you back. You don’t have to stop pursuing your dreams. It’s an obstacle that can be overcome, not a barrier. Give it the attention it deserves and step by step you can get things under control. It could be a lot worse.

When I was diagnosed, I didn’t really know anyone with diabetes. And when I was told that I should only cycle a mile when diagnosed I thought my dream was over.

What advice would you give to healthcare professionals who are trying to encourage sufferers to take more exercise?

Don’t be too scared to prescribe exercise as a way to balance their condition. Sometimes they have such a fear of lows because of exercise but with the correct knowledge this can be avoided.

What innovation in the diabetes sphere would have the biggest impact on your life?

I’m not sure. Of course a cure would be perfect but I wouldn’t say no to anything which is a step closer towards achieving that.


You car read more about the team here.

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