Professional Cyclist Sam Brand explains why ‘it means everything’ to be part of Team Novo Nordisk

Sam Brand’s life changed completely on World Diabetes Day in 2001 as at the age of 10 he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, although this diagnosis did not stop Brand from continuing to play football, basketball and compete in triathlons. Brand is now a professional cyclist who races for an all diabetic cycling team, Team Novo Nordisk. 

Brand showed the usual symptoms of diabetes before being diagnosed, but with being such a young age Brand was not fully aware of the change which this would make to his life.

“I had never really heard of diabetes and didn’t know anyone else living with the condition.

“I didn’t really know much at the time, and it was a learning process,” said Brand.

Brand, whose father competed at two World Triathlon Championships during his childhood, was encouraged to continue his sport as a youngster and went on to compete at county level in football, basketball and cross country.

Brand himself continued his sport as it was something, he loved rather than as a management for his diabetes but now he see’s sport as a relief and is grateful of the benefits it possesses when it comes to managing his diabetes.

“Honestly, I was just a child continuing to do what I’d always done. Having fun with friends, at local clubs, and just generally being a 10-year-old boy.

“Of course, being active helps diabetes management, but this wasn’t why I stayed active.

“I just continued it because I loved it, and it made me feel the best. No one ever even hinted that I shouldn’t stay active.

“I was always encouraged – it was just natural and, in my nature, to be an active kid.

“It’s (Blood Glucose Levels) so much more manageable whilst cycling and staying active.

“Sport has always been my release and had such positive impacts on my general health. The fact it helps with diabetes management is amazing,” Brand added.

Having represented Merseyside at the English Schools Cross Country Championships, upon starting University in 2011 Brand decided he would join the squad as an outlet from the work aspect of university, as well to add structure to his diabetes and keep it in check.

Brand did not see his condition as a disadvantage when competing in triathlons and was fortunate enough to meet over competitors who also had Type 1 diabetes. Brand said;

“I had things to deal with that my competitors didn’t have to deal with (diabetes), but I always say it goes hand-in-hand with managing training and sport.

“It was just something else I had to monitor.

“I met a few other type 1’s in triathlon but not really at the level I was competing at. It was always a pleasure to meet others with the condition and hopefully help them progress.”

Brand in his Team Novo Nordisk Kit. (Credit: Per Fledelius)

In his first full season in the sport Brand qualified to compete at the 2013 World Triathlon Championships, and by posting a photo after the event Brand was approached by Team Novo Nordisk.

“I posted a photo after finishing the 2013 World Triathlon Championships in London and used the hashtag ‘#ChangingDiabetes’.

“The team, along a few of its members, asked if I’d be interested in joining. I reached out after some research to join the ‘Elite Team’.

“Then I was asked to join the development team, but I delayed for a year to finish my degree. Since day one, I’ve never looked back,” said Brand.

As an athlete being part of a team has a real camaraderie feeling, however, to be part of a team where every member suffers from the same disease is something which means everything to Brand.

“It means everything. To be on this team is incredible, and to get on my bike every day, not just for my desire, but to do it for everyone around the world affected by diabetes is amazing.

“My simple goal is to try to change my little part of the world,” Brand added.

Having gained attention from Team Novo Nordisk through his success in triathlons, Brand made the decision to focus solely on his cycling and he believes the opportunity to do so came at the perfect time for him. Brand said;

“I was cycling a couple of times a week but usually nothing over two hours. It’s crazy to think that is a short ride for me now.

“It really was an opportunity to chase my dream of becoming a professional sportsman, something I’d always dreamed of. At the time, I’d reached a crossroads with graduating university and trying to pursue triathlon.

“The opportunity to join the Team Novo Nordisk Development Team came at the perfect moment.”

Since switching swimming and running for the road Brand has a has had a number of highlights including helping the team to its first World Tour Jersey.

“I have many highlights, particularly helping the team to its first World Tour jersey at the Tour of Poland (Charles Planet-Most Active Rider Jersey).

“This season I wore my first classification jersey after claiming the KOM jersey on Stage 1 of the Tour of Estonia. I ended the season on a high finishing 16th on general classification at the Tour of Taihu Lake,” Brand said.

Having finished his first professional season with Team Novo Nordisk Brand already has his eyes set on next season and wants to show himself against the worlds best.

“To get on the podium and win races. It sounds simple, but our results have been progressing year over year.

“I want to show myself against the best in the world. I’m still relatively new to the sport, only starting in 2016, so I’m excited to develop more and really push my boundaries,” Brand said.

Looking even further ahead Brand is unsure of what he will do after he retires from professional cycling but does want to continue the team’s mission while still being involved in sport.

“Sport has always been a great passion of mine so to include both would be the dream.

“Most importantly, I’d love to continue our mission to inspire, educate and empower all of those around the world affected by diabetes.

“Changing the way people think and see diabetes and to put a smile on people’s faces is important to me. Our mission means the world to me.” Brand added.

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