An Interview with Stephen Clancy, Team Novo Nordisk Pro Cycling

Short Description
Stephen Clancy is a cyclist with Team Novo Nordisk who was diagnosed with T1D at age 19. We interviewed him on what his diagnosis was like, juggling T1D with school, and how T1D has affected his athletics.
Contributor
Stephen Clancy, diagnosed at age 19
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Stephen Clancy riding his bicycle

 

How old were you when you were diagnosed with T1D?

I was 19 years old at the time of diagnosis.

How did you feel when you were diagnosed? What happened?

I was very surprised to be honest. At first I thought it was a disaster because I was told I should only ride my bike for 1 mile, so my cycling dreams were effectively over. But thankfully this only lasted 24 hours because I researched Team Novo Nordisk (TNN, known as Team Type 1 at the time) and ordered Phil Southerland’s book, Not Dead Yet: My Race Against Disease: From Diagnosis to Dominance, which showed that it wasn’t impossible.

Did you know anyone else with diabetes?

At the time I didn’t really know anyone else with T1D. There was one guy in my primary (elementary) school who had it but that was before I knew I would be just like him one day.

 

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Blurb Title
"The hardest part was building up the confidence to return to the level of cycling I had previously been at, and for my Mom to stop worrying about me!"

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Stephen Clancy with teammate
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What was the hardest part about adjusting to life with diabetes? The best part?

The hardest part was building up the confidence to return to the level of cycling I had previously been at, and for my Mom to stop worrying about me! This required learning how to manage it all (very regular testing, weighing foods, keeping a diary) to control things well enough so that it didn’t hold me back. The best part? I guess I realized after a while that cycling actually helped my diabetes control. So in the end, what I was already doing by staying active and eating healthy would benefit me, so I didn’t need to change that.

How did you balance school and diabetes? What was that like?

I was in university at the time, actually training to be a teacher. I was diagnosed while I was out in a school on teaching practice so it was like jumping in at the deep end. I needed to make sure my levels were good for the duration of each class, which wasn’t easy in the early days with the stress of standing in front of 30 students not much younger than me. But it went fine!

Blurb Title
"If you give it the effort it deserves, you’ll be rewarded by being able to control your diabetes as opposed to diabetes controlling you."

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How do you feel having diabetes has influenced you as an athlete?

I think it has taught me more about the foods I put into my body and the effects they have. Along with the demands and importance of exercise. Because many people still think it’s impossible to do high level sports with diabetes, but it drives me to be the best athlete I can be to show what is possible.

Do you have any advice for people who are diagnosed in their teens or as a young adult?  

It’s definitely not the end of the world. If you can accept it and take the right approach by testing very regularly and always trying to improve (because no day will be perfect, but you can constantly learn from your mistakes) then it’s really worth it. If you give it the effort it deserves, you’ll be rewarded by being able to control your diabetes as opposed to diabetes controlling you.

Editor's note: Did you know we have a guide just for people diagnosed with T1D as a young adult? Download your copy here.

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Stephen Clancy headshot
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Stephen Clancy

With 2020 marking his eighth year with Team Novo Nordisk, 27-year-old Stephen Clancy will continue to form an integral part of the team. Clancy has already amassed a list of accolades including Cycling Ireland’s ‘Domestic Rider of the Year’ and enjoyed consistent performances at both Tours of China I & II towards the end of the 2019 season.

In 2017, he earned the America First Credit Union’s fan favorite jersey on the opening stage of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. The general public voted on the jersey, which was based on the rider with the best ideals and professionalism in cycling, community, or a charity. His career-best finish at a UCI 2.1 race happened in 2015 when he sprinted to fourth place on Stage 3 of the Tour of China I.

After an athletic childhood, Clancy focused exclusively on cycling at age 16. He won his first race — a time trial — and continued to enter and earn results at bigger races. Following a breakout U23* season, he signed with Ireland’s top domestic squad, Dan Morrissey-Speedyspokes. While at a team training camp, routine blood tests indicated abnormal blood sugar levels. After a follow-up test, Clancy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In the hospital, a diabetes consultant told him extreme levels of exercise could complicate his diabetes management and make it more difficult to control the condition.

Within 24 hours of being discharged, Clancy discovered Team Novo Nordisk on the web, which motivated him to get back on the bike. Clancy connected with a fellow Irish rider on the Team Novo Nordisk development squad, and within six months, he signed a contract with the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team.

Clancy never thought he would become a diabetes ambassador and speak publicly to others about his journey. As a student, he was terrified to speak in front of his class, but now the young Irishman enjoys inspiring others with his story. Prior to joining Team Novo Nordisk, Clancy studied to become a physical education teacher. He anticipates remaining in the cycling and diabetes communities following his professional career. Clancy is a music fanatic and not being able to bring his guitar is the biggest challenge of being on the road.

All images ©️TeamNovoNordisk.