Sam Brand — From Triathlons to Cycling at Team Novo Nordisk

WRITTEN BY: Michelle Boise

sam-brand-1ATLANTA, GEORGIA – Beyond Type 1 sat down with Team Novo Nordisk cyclist Sam Brand at Stone Mountain Training Camp to discuss his recruitment, life on an all-diabetes sports team and his recent career switch to cycling.

Brand came to the team initially as a triathlon athlete. His father was a part of the local triathlon scene on the Isle of Man in the UK, and so he took to the sport at a young age. Active and competitive with an innate ability to self- discipline, Brand was a natural athlete.

In his early twenties he qualified to race for Great Britain at the 2013 ITU World Championships. And in 2014, he finished 12th in his age group at the Nottingham Triathlon, a World Championship qualifier. Afterward, he posted his results on social media. Team Novo Nordisk — an all-diabetes sports team for cyclists, runner and triathletes — took notice. “They’re a team I was more than aware of,” says Brand. “They’ve inspired so many of those affected by diabetes. Especially myself.”

After a successful interview and having met the sporting requirements, he was invited to join the Team Novo Nordisk Elite Squad (Triathlon and Running). “I was ecstatic,” says Brand. “I felt I found a way to help inspire the next generation of people affected by diabetes.”

In 2015, he finished second at the British Triathlon Championships for them. It was the first time Brand had been a part of an all-diabetes team and described it as a “privilege to be surrounded by this family of athletes, all of whom work together to be the best we can be while inspiring others affected by diabetes.” A year later, he was offered a spot on the Team Novo Nordisk Development Squad for cycling and accepted.

When we discuss the difference between the two sports, he explains that “triathletes are notorious for solo races and in straight lines; cycling is technical racing on wheels and you have to learn to ride with people. It’s a team sport and it’s quite tactical. The hardest thing was not having the variability but I’m learning every day.”

When we talk about his diagnosis at age 10, he counts himself as one of the lucky ones. “I was fortunate because it was World Diabetes Day,” he says. “My Mum had seen a diabetes-related interview with Sir Steve Redgrave on the television and managed to get me an emergency doctor’s appointment.” He’d had all the typical symptoms of Type 1 diabetes — extreme thirst, weight loss, lethargy.

Brand seems like a lucky guy, but I suspect it has more to do with his upbeat attitude, warm demeanor and apparent work ethic. He tells me, “The most important thing I learned at university was routine. Triathlon races there gave me the ability to develop a regime that worked for me. It was a positive combination between sport, studying and diabetes management.” Since then he’s graduated with a degree in quantity surveying (managing budget plans for construction projects). For now, he’s aiming for a career as a professional cyclist and is helping spread global diabetes awareness. Not bad for a 25-year-old from a tiny island in the middle of the Irish Sea.

“I am often asked how I can do endurance sport with diabetes,” he says, “for which I respond ‘I use it as an advantage. I grew up with diabetes.’”

Read the interview of Phil Southerland on Advocacy, Action + Type 1 by Alexi Melvin.

Michelle Boise

Michelle has a BA in English literature and Spanish and a MFA in writing from the University of San Francisco. As a writer, editor and content guru, she's worked on both literary magazines and e-commerce platforms. Before joining the Beyond Type 1 team, she developed health-conscious articles for Fitbit. When she's not writing, you can find her cooking or painting with acrylics (they dry faster). She is an expert decipher in the very serious discipline of finding hidden meaning in the seemingly meaningless.