Mandy Marquardt (pronounced MAR-kwart), a USA rider with Team Novo Nordisk, arrived in Los Angeles representing the United States for the Tissot UCI World Cup Track tournament as the current US National Sprint Champion in the elite sprint, keirin, 500m time trial and team sprint. She focuses on track cycling full-time for the United States and Team Novo Nordisk, the world’s first all-diabetes pro cycling team, and she’s also the head coach of the cycling team at Penn State Lehigh Valley. After a couple hours training, Mandy sat down with us to talk training for the World Cup, conquering challenges, and setting Olympic goals.
Mandy really loves cycling, but training for a race like the UCI Track World Cup still requires dedication of mind, body, and time. Fortunately, USA cycling arranged for her and the other riders to arrive in Los Angeles a week early so that they could train on the Velodrome they will be competing on. If she were at home in Pennsylvania, Mandy would be training on the outdoor 330-meter concrete track that’s 20 minutes from her college, as opposed to this 250-meter track in Los Angeles made from Siberian pine.
During the winters in PA (not great for outdoor training) she trains on the Watt bike with Sprinter’s Edge (a training center near her home), but training this close to a competition is much more involved. Morning road rides and hours at the track, plus her weight training in the gym involves “deadlifting, squatting, leg press, then going back again to do another session.” She told us, “leading into this, I maxed out a week ago in squats. “ Mandy’s dedication to hard work makes her stand out. Joined by her very amicable boyfriend and fellow track cyclist, Jamie Alvord (who is an alternate for the World Cup and a track coach) she works to get that advantage in the competition.
It’s been almost a decade from when Mandy started cycling at 16, presumably a nerve-wracking thing for a teenager. “At first I was so nervous because I was going against girls that I revered like Ann Meares,” Mandy told us, “ she’s retired now but I met her at the London World Cup, so that was neat. That was 2 years after the Olympics, and people were flying too because points were on the line. I thought ‘ this is gonna take a lot of work’ but i can do it, just keep getting stronger in the gym and that’s gonna transfer to the bike’. Consistency is so important.” Mandy pointed out that people who aren’t familiar with track cycling are often confused when she talks about her training, “Sometimes I’ll see other cyclists and they’ll ask how many miles I did and I’ll say ‘I did a sprint lap and rested’, which can be confusing. We may not be going on 4-hour road rides, but we’re in the gym and each session you have to tune all the way in. Going through a sprint tournament is mentally hard.” She’s motivated by the results that she sees, “The last world cup I was at in Appledorn (NED), I got 8th, and it was just cool to go to that world cup and get that place.” Mandy’s next goal is getting to the Olympics, “2020 is the biggest thing and I’m doing everything I can. It’s a lot of pressure. I know that these next 4 years are gonna be hard, but it’ll be worth it.” Last year was a good racing year for Mandy and this World Cup kicks off her 2017 season, another year towards her goals of gold.
Mandy joined Team Novo Nordisk (American global all-diabetes sports team of cyclists, triathletes and runners) in 2010, but it was three years earlier at age 16 when she received the surprise diagnosis that she had Type 1 Diabetes, “I went in for VO2 max testing and that’s when they told me my blood sugars really high. I had to go to the hospital for a couple weeks.“ She or her family didn’t have an inkling that this would be coming, besides her blood sugar she had pretty good results. This was a tough situation for her, she felt that competing was at stake, she says, “I didn’t know if I’d still be able to race at that level. I didn’t know where to start. At first I thought, ‘is it something I did?’ I was pretty unsure about what it consisted of.” Mandy and her family decided that they wouldn’t let her diagnosis get in the way of her love of competitive cycling, she just had to adjust to being more disciplined when it came to training and food choices. “It took me a while to get a routine down,” she said, “but it’s definitely given me some discipline to be more aware of what foods affect my body. I like cookies, but I know my blood sugar’s high and it’s not going to be good for my training. Having diabetes has taught me a lot about nutrition.”
“Having diabetes has taught me a lot about nutrition.”
With certain restrictions and limitations, we wanted to know Mandy’s staple snack – something she can always rely on. Her favorite? Yogurt. “I always go for 2% cause it has a little bit of fat so it helps regulate my blood sugars,” she told us. “Dairy has casin which is really good way to recover when you’re out here tearing up your muscles. I even add a scoop of protein powder or jam to spice it up.” She even joked, “if I could get a yogurt sponsor that’d be great – I eat it all the time.” (You hear that, Chobani?)
Though accustomed to training at a high level, she was shy at first to talk about her diagnosis in front of people, “I found that difficult at first, to be able to start a conversation because you don’t want to be judged.” When she became a member of Team Novo Nordisk she blossomed; Mandy learned to network and talk to people in the community. “Through the sport, the team and meeting other people with Type 1, I’ve learned about public speaking and networking. It’s has been a platform to inspire girls with diabetes, or even if they’re just going through something in school.”
“We’re not just cycling, we have a mission”
She and her team are kind of like a big family, they travel together meeting and talking with kids at schools and conferences, “we’re not just cycling,” she says, “we have a mission.” Her years on the team has made her a cyclist to look up to. A couple days before our meeting, Mandy received an inspirational message from a 13-year-old girl on Instagram. Mandy saw that the girl was visiting Orange County and set up a meeting with her and her dad. They met up for lunch in Huntington Beach and Mandy signed her Novo Nordisk jersey. “She was lighting up,” Mandy said, “She’s so ambitious, it’s incredible. She’s from Seattle so her and her dad come up here once a month to race. She’s gonna get really good. I told her to keep training and have fun.”
Mandy is grateful for the support she gets from everyone who plays a part in her success. She cites her parents as her greatest influence, “When I was 6/7 we moved to Florida from Germany (where Mandy was born) and my parents got me into swimming and tennis when I was 10. I wanted to be a tennis player and played heavily for five years.” Despite her success in tennis, Mandy was very inspired by her German father, an avid runner and cyclist, to get more serious about cycling.
She gets support from outside the family as well, “Sports psychology has helped because I don’t always wanna put that nerve or pressure on my parents. My parents don’t feel the need be coaches and can just be supportive. “ There is a small subset of sports psychologists in the United States, but they seem to be essential for high-level athletes. Working with psychologist K.C. Wilder at Elite Mental Edge in PA has helped her sustain her confidence on the bike. “If something goes wrong or you don’t get a good time, you have to know how to recollect yourself and get back out there. You can lose confidence in a match sprint and if you lose that control you are basically giving the rider the win” Mandy revealed.
Mandy wears her bubbly personality on her sleeve, even literally with some shiny jewelry that adorns her hands. I asked her if she always wore jewelry while she trained/raced, “Always!” she retorted. Her nails are long, manicured and painted with glitter, another way she adds her own flair to the team kit. ” in a sport thats so masculine don’t lose the feminnme side of it.” Her shoes are a custom creation by local artist collective B Street Shoes – a shop in Costa Mesa that paints custom creations on athletic shoes. Inspired by the shoes they did for Jamaican track World Record Holder, Asafa Powell, Mandy asked them to create a unique prism design for the World Cup featuring red, white, and blue colors.
Mandy’s dedication is inspiring and her hard work shows when she commands the track. Her performance at this year’s UCI Track World Cup is going to be the start of the next 4 years of intense work. At the end of the meeting, I asked Mandy how she felt about visibilty in track cycling and how she makes it her own:
“Because the sport is very male oriented, you gotta almost create your own footprint with it, because it’s not like swimming or tennis where there’s more visibility there. I don’t make a salary doing what I do, sometimes that can be tough, but I see this as something I love to do. I don’t ever want to do something just to make money; I want to make an impact and that’s more important to me. I look at it like doing an internship, I don’t know what’s gonna happen a month from now, I know I’ll be riding my bike, but I don’t know where or who I’m going to meet next. It’s just so neat how the sport brings you in different areas; there’s a lot of incredible people.” Just like Mandy.
Tickets for the two-day event will go on sale beginning Friday, September 30 at 10:00 AM via AXS. Group tickets can be arranged by calling (877) 604-8777 or contacting [email protected] For more information, please go to the event’s official web site at www.trackworldcupla.com.[Mandy Marquardt – Team Novo Nordisk | Team Novo Nordisk] [Mandy Marquardt Website]