Mandy Marquardt Interview
by Nadezhda Pavlova
by Nadezhda Pavlova
Mandy Marquardt is a professional track sprint cyclist racing for Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team and for the USA Cycling National Team. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 16. Mandy is an 18-time U.S. National Champion and currently holds 3 U.S National Records. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 2014. Mandy is an ambassador for many organizations, and is passionate about being a role model for children worldwide as well as for everyone affected by diabetes.
1. What is your inspiration for competing in a sport? Why did you choose track cycling?
I grew up in South Florida, and was playing tennis, running, swimming and was interested in doing a triathlon. At age 10, my parents researched and found a velodrome 20-minutes from our home. I picked it up really quickly, and less than a year later, my parents and I drove from Florida to Texas to compete at my first Junior National Championships, competing in the Women’s 10-12 age category, where I won 2 gold medals. I then realized, hey this is fun and maybe I could really do this. I continued to race both the road and track endurance disciplines for years.
As a student at The Pennsylvania State University, I was very involved in the cycling club on campus and competed in the USA Cycling Collegiate Road and Track Nationals Championships every year. One year at Collegiate Track Nationals, I competed in a sprint event and I loved it. Shortly after in 2012, I met my now coach, Andrew Harris and he had me do some testing on the bike and found I had great physical capabilities for the sprint discipline. I haven’t looked back since. It’s been an incredible journey.
2. Tell us about how you were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and how it has changed your life?
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 16 while racing and living in Mannheim, Germany with my father. While hospitalized for two weeks, a doctor told me I would never be able to compete at a high level again in the sport of cycling. I was heartbroken, but my parents were my biggest supporters, and helped me get back on the bike. I always knew it was my happy place. I started riding again, and just training for fun and told myself ‘we’ll see what happens’.
3. What can you say is your greatest achievement in the cycling career?
The 2019/2020 UCI Track World Cup season was one to remember – I finished 4th in Belarus and had a couple other top 10 finishes, placing me 9th in the overall UCI World Cup Standings.
One highlight is setting 3 U.S National Records as an athlete living with diabetes. I set the last record, the women’s kilo, in July 2020.
4. Since you joined Team Novo Nordisk, how has your life changed?
Being part of Team Novo Nordisk for a decade now has been a life-changing experience. From media training and how to talk about my diagnosis to racing worldwide and making an impact. I definitely took those experiences into the classroom with me and it’s been a great opportunity to meet other people with diabetes worldwide. We have really held true to our mission, which is to inspire ,educate and empower everyone affected by diabetes.
They are so supportive of my career and have been there for me every step of the way. We really have grown to be a family. They have given me the confidence to own my diabetes, because it is something I was embarrassed to talk about. I’m grateful to do what I love, give back, and change people’s lives in a lot of ways. It’s fulfilling.
Team Novo Nordisk is based out of Atlanta, GA and the Men’s Pro Team includes riders living with type 1 diabetes from all parts of the world. I’m currently their only female Professional Track Cyclist, but there is another young female ambassador and rider on the team, McKenna McKee, who is such an inspiration and has been following in my footsteps. It’s been incredible to be part of her journey and see her growth over the years.
5. How has training during the coronavirus pandemic period been for you?
It’s been a challenging time. I returned home from the world championships in March, 2020 and shortly after we heard the Olympics were going to be postponed. In June, USA Cycling announced their Olympic Long Team, which brings me and all the athletes selected one step closer in hopes of being selected for the Final Olympic Team in the Spring of 2021.
In a way, it’s been nice to slow down, be home and with family, and get some consistent good training in. At the beginning of November, I traveled to Colorado Springs for a training camp at the Olympic Training Center. It was a great opportunity to be out there and focus on training. All safety precautions were in place and it was a great training bubble. I was able to spend Christmas at home for the first time in two years. Now I am hoping to get back to competition in May with the UCI Track Cycling Nations Cup in Hong Kong.
6. What are some of the challenges you experience as a sprint cyclist living with type 1 diabetes?
As an athlete, I’m so tuned into my body already. Living with diabetes can be challenging because many variables affect my blood sugars – stress, food, hormones, time zones changes, travel and the list goes on. It takes a lot of monitoring, awareness and control, but I feel that it has made me a better athlete – I’m not looking back and wishing things were different.
7. Have you noticed a difference in more women embracing this sport since you began?
As a female cyclist, I’ve dealt with discrepancies in prize money at races (even though we had the same number of male to females numbers racing). In training, my coach has built a solid culture of integrity and respect and we all support one another. USA Cycling has been very supportive throughout the areas and addressing any issues and offering support through their SafeSport program. Safesport is an initiative to recognize, reduce and respond to misconduct in sport. I also work with a sports psychologist which has helped me tremendously on and off the bike.
I do see a bright future for women’s cycling. We have many young upcoming riders who show great drive and commitment. USA Cycling has supported many of these young riders through their development programs and foundations and especially our velodrome, the Valley Preferred Cycling Center is a great place for many young athletes to get involved.
It’s never just been about me and I’m inspired by all the women I’ve met in sport. As a marketing and management major from Penn State Lehigh Valley, I enjoy connecting, networking and see the value in building my brand to continue to make an impact and inspire young girls and everyone affected by diabetes.
8. What are your objectives for this year?
My hope for 2021 is for the world to be in a better place. Some certainty and clarity would be nice, for sure. While everything is unknown right now, that is sport in a lot of ways. There are so many unknowns, but we must keep training. Personally, there have always been changes and detours in my life, but most of the time they have been for the better. I hope the Olympics do happen and that I’m selected by USA cycling to represent my country. I’m focused on continuing to improve and grow – it’s not a closed door, it’s continuing to build and look toward the future too. Over the years, I was always travelling or racing, so it’s been great to be home this long for the first time in 6 years and put my head down, continue to put the work in and enjoy things I normally wouldn’t be able to.
9. How many hours per week and times per day do you train? Do you spend time in the gym?
I train 6 days a week for a total 25-30hrs with my Coach, Andrew Harris and his program, Edge Cycling (based in Allentown, PA). I love my job that includes, gym, track sessions, recovery and endurance road miles on the road, physical therapy, sports psychology and massage therapy.
A typical day would be gym in the morning and focusing on plyometrics and primary lifts. My favorite lift is front squats because they are a mix of mobility and strength. During the pandemic, I set up a gym in my home to continue my training.
In the afternoon, I’m at the velodrome. My cycling and gym program written by Andrew is structured in phases around strength, speed and my competition schedule. It’s important I stay consistent with my training, so that I mentally and physically make necessary progression to reach my goals.
10. What is your favorite dish? Do you follow a strict diet?
It is important to be mindful about nutrition and fueling, and incorporating more protein and eating consistently through the day. Most importantly, to be patient and seek resources. My team, Team Novo Nordisk has many great resources and tips on their website too!
Whether competing at a high level or just going out to exercise, always be prepared. I love my snacks! My favorites are the Honey Stinger waffles, performance chews and protein snack bars.
Food should also be fun. I recently partnered with Mammoth Creameries, a yummy keto friendly ice cream founded by Tim Krauss, who is living with type 1 diabetes – it’s a pretty sweet partnership!
11. What word of encouragement would be an athlete or any other individual out there living with diabetes?
Never limit yourself and your own capabilities. Use your platform to create awareness and inspire and connect with others affected by diabetes. The Founder and CEO of Team Novo Nordisk, who is also living and racing with diabetes says, “Diabetes only chooses the champions.”
12. What is your favorite quote that keeps you going?
We are all greater than our highs and lows. I used that quote and my story to create my logo. The diabetes community has always been inspiring and supportive. I feel that my logo really puts my journey and the connection with the diabetes community in perspective. The blue circle is the global symbol for diabetes – that we are all connected in a special way and my initials subtly share a story that we are all greater than our highs and lows.