Umberto Poli: cycling, diabetes and a message to spread
19 March 2021 - News
Umberto Poli: cycling, diabetes and a message to spread

He was among the protagonists of the 2019 Milan-Sanremo together with three other teammates, including another Italian Andrea Peron. They were quick, good and courageous, entering the first ten-man break of the day. Their attack has a competitive significance, but their display also carries an important social significance. The Novo Nordisk line-up is made up entirely of athletes with diabetes who, with their performances, spread a very important message as explained to us by Poli who,after being in the break all day, also completed the 291km race – the longest race of the entire WorldTour circuit. We spoke to Umberto and discovered that cycling was in his destiny from an early age and that today it has a meaning that goes far beyond simply sporting.

How did you start cycling?

“I started cycling before I was diagnosed with diabetes, at the age of 6 with G.S. LUC BOVOLONE where Elia Viviani also started. I continued up to the G2 category, after which I took a break, devoting myself to other sports such as football, judo and tennis. In my heart, however, I felt that the bicycle was the thing I cared about most and thanks to my first coach Lino Scapini I got back on the saddle at the age of 12 and have never stopped!”

When did you find out you had type 1 diabetes?

“It was October 7, 2012. That day I was racing an end-of-season race in the junior category and as often at that time, I was ‘on the run’. I had to stop because I was not feeling so well, I felt very tired. Back home, I asked my mother to take me to the hospital where they found my blood sugar at over 700 and they rushed me to Legnago’s hospital where I stayed for a week.” 

What changes for a rider with diabetes?

“The main difference for a rider living with diabetes is the control of the diabetes itself. Compared to other non-diabetic cyclists, my teammates from Team Novo Nordisk and I have to check our blood sugar levels much more often, as well as remember to always have food supplies and gels, especially during particularly long runs. At a nutritional level we have no big limits and we can eat practically everything but always in a controlled manner. As far as the types of training are concerned, they do not vary, so you have to commit like everyone else, get involved and give 100%!”

What kind of rider are you?

“I would say a rouleur. To show off I am often ‘forced’ to enter the breaks. It is hard, but is also very rewarding.”

How do you find yourself in the TNN and how are you supported?

“I feel very comfortable, TNN is a second family for me. I spend most of the year with staff and teammates, there is a really nice atmosphere. The team always supports me, especially in those moments when the form is not at 100%: there is always someone in the team who helps me not to give up, to believe in me and this is very important especially in a sport where 80% of the work is headed.”

Which race do you like the most?

“I like Paris-Roubaix for the cobblestones and the warmth of the public which is what motivates you to give more and more!”

At what point in your career do you feel you have arrived?

“I’m still very young [he’s 24] And therefore at the beginning of my career and I want to start taking some satisfaction, both personally, for the team and for my family.”