- Angus Sung
Stephen Clancy, 25, is among the 120-plus riders competing in the 13th annual Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah bicycle race July 31-Aug. 6 in northern Utah. But Clancy—and all the members of his Novo Nordisk team—race with a companion: diabetes. We caught up with the Irish racer after a training ride to ask him about competing with the world's first all-diabetic professional cycling squad.
When did you discover you had diabetes?
I'd been an amateur cyclist in Ireland for a number of years. When I was 19, my cycling career was going quite well, but I began having symptoms: frequent urination, increased thirst, weight loss and muscle cramping. At first, I blamed it all on hard training. But diabetes showed up in routine blood tests.
And how did you react to the diagnosis?
Shock and surprise, that's for sure. At first, I thought it was kind of unfair. I thought, 'Did I do something to cause this?' Thankfully, those emotions lasted only 24 hours. The doctors told me I couldn't cycle a mile ... but today I just got back from a 100-mile ride, so they were obviously quite wrong.
How do you manage your diabetes during a race?
It's just one of those things with a learning curve. Over time, you learn what impact racing has on your body. Throughout the race, we have access to a glucose monitor we carry in our pocket. If our sugar levels are low, we eat; if they're high, we take our insulin. It's a balancing act ... just one extra thing to think about.
How does the Tour of Utah compare with other races?
My first time here was last year. It's certainly quite a hard race and just getting through it is an achievement. What stands out is the high altitude. I grew up in Ireland and now live most of the time in Spain—at sea level. These massive mountains are very different from what I grew up with.
Do you have plans when your professional cycling career is over?
Really, nothing specific. When I was diagnosed, I was in university in Ireland training to be a teacher in physical education and math. Potentially, I could go back and finish that. My girlfriend teaches English as a foreign language in Spain—and that's a possibility, too. Nothing is set in stone.
I hear you love music. Did you bring along your guitar?
I constantly listen to music. I'm still at a very basic level of playing. I already travel around the world with a bike or two ... and a guitar would just be too much.
How do you and your teammates support one another?
In a way, it's nice to have six or eight guys in the same boat. If we need extra food or supplies from the car, they can go back and help us. In training, it's motivating to know you're not the only one [with diabetes]. My team inspires me.