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Draper Journal

Professional cycler takes Tour of Utah by storm, diabetes and all

Aug 28, 2017 02:30PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Stephen Clancy has been a professional cycler for five years, after being diagnosed with diabetes six years ago. (Team Novo Nordisk - Angus Sung)

By Jesse Sindelar | [email protected]

Stephen Clancy is a professional cycler who tours the world, racing against some of the most elite athletes in the world. However, Clancy and his team are not your average cycling team. 

The entire team, Team Novo Nordisk, suffers from either Type 1 or 2 diabetes, while still competing in circuits all across the world. The Tour of Utah is just another stop in the circuit for the states.

Clancy, an 25-year-old Irishman who has been racing professionally for five years now, was not given much of a chance after his initial diagnosis. 

“Growing up, I was an amateur racer. The goal was always to be a pro, and I was part of the Irish development team initially. I started to notice diabetes symptoms, and I was diagnosed at 19. The doctors initially said that I could only cycle a mile,” Clancy said.

But that didn’t stop Clancy. 

“I reached out to the team, because they were looking for riders with diabetes with their new sponsor (Novo Nordisk). In the beginning, even their consultant didn’t think it would be possible,” Clancy said.

However, it was possible. Albeit with a lot of precise work and dedication. “It’s a balancing act. We have glucose monitors on throughout the race, and you start to learn about your body, about what foods are good and bad. It is generally all about timing, with our glucose levels and when and what we eat,” Clancy said.

Other than the team of doctors that travel with them all the time and the team car packed to the brim with everyone’s diabetes kits, the team is about the same as any other professional cycling team.

For Clancy, diabetes has been an important, unescapable factor in his life that, for better or worse, has given him an interesting perspective on how to live. 

“You can’t really take a day off from diabetes. At first, I thought it would be a big burden, but it has forced me to learn about my body and nutrition, which is crucial for any professional athlete, and allowed us to be more in tune with what our bodies need,” Clancy said.

While he has plans to continue professionally riding full time, Clancy is aware of the possibility that it might not happen. “If I can keep going, I will. But if not, I want to be involved in the community. I want people to know what they can do, even if they have diabetes.”

“Kids will come up to me and say, ‘He has the same pump or glucose thing as I do!’ which is great. I want to inspire people, and I want people to not let diabetes be a barrier for their dreams,” Clancy said.

The team is registered in Atlanta, Georgia, but they have riders from Canada, Australia, Europe, and of course, Ireland. And while every member of the team suffers from a form of diabetes, that has not stopped any of them from pursuing their dreams, and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.