Feature: Novo Nordisk squad has four year plan for Grand Tours, but Tour de France is longer-term goal
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Feature: Novo Nordisk squad has four year plan for Grand Tours, but Tour de France is longer-term goal

by Shane Stokes at 3:55 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Team founder Phil Southerland discusses changes to Team Type 1 and goals for squad

Novo NordiskAlthough the team already raced in many high-level events in 2012, gaining important experience and some strong results, the founder of the former Team Type 1 has said that it will target a measured, gradually-paced path towards Tour de France participation in order to ensure that the riders are of the right level for cycling’s toughest event.

Along with a new title sponsor, Team Novo Nordisk is taking a new approach from 2013 onwards with a lineup completely composed of diabetic members. Riders with this condition formed a less than a quarter of the team’s number in 2012 but next year’s lineup will include seventeen riders with Type 1 diabetes.

Proving that these can all compete at a high level is the main message that team founder Phil Southerland wants to convey. However he also recognises that they will need to gain experience and strength to be able to take the fight to ProTeam squads, and so the team’s goals will be gradual ones in terms of three week races.

“We definitely have a Grand Tour in our sights. It is not an immediate goal. We are fortunate at Team Novo Nordisk to have a more long-term vision,” the American told VeloNation today. “Vassili Davidenko [directeur sportif – ed.] believes a Grand Tour can be done in the next 3-4 years. I trust him on that one.”

By that Southerland is referring to the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España. As for the Tour de France, he’s willing to give it more time. “I've set a nine year goal to get Team Novo Nordisk to Le Tour by 2021. We want to have it done before the 100th year celebration of insulin's invention.

“It's going to be a challenge, but a challenge that both we and Novo Nordisk are up to tackling.”

‘Sky-like’ approach to develop riders:

Because the pool of talent is reduced in size by virtue of the fact that there are far fewer diabetic riders worldwide than those without the condition, Southerland knows that the team will have to work carefully with those it identifies and employs, and try to make the most of their abilities.

“We have to take a "Sky like" approach, and look to improve in every area we can for our existing riders,” he explained, “while also searching the earth for the next great diabetic bike racer, and developing them into professionals.”

The team stated yesterday that in year one of the setup, it will focus on the shorter stage races. It has said that it expects to ride events such as the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the Tour of Britain and Paris-Tours. Southerland also hopes that the team can get an invite to one or two WorldTour races, as well as events such as the Tours of Denmark, California, Turkey and Britain.

The 2013 lineup will comprise the returning riders Fabio Calabria of Australia, the American Joe Eldridge, Dutchman Martijn Verschoor and the Spanish duo David Lozano and Javier Megias.

They will be joined by a dozen others, namely Italians Andrea Peron, Andrea Ciacchini and Paolo Cravanzola, Irishman Stephen Clancy, the Australians Justin Morris and Chris Williams, Kevin De Mesmaeker and Thomas Raeymaekers of Belgium, Joonas Henttala (Finland), Aaron Perry (New Zealand), Branden Russell (USA) and the Russian rider Andrei Strelkov.

Of those, Southerland believes that some may hit the ground running a little faster than the others, in terms of gaining the early results.

Novo Nordisk“I think Martijin Vershoor and Javier Megias can snag some big victories for us. Andrea Peron won four races in Italy last year, and he could have a big year for us,” he said, hoping for big things from the 24 year old. “Joonas has been on the podium of the Finnish Road and TT Championships, so could surprise us.”

He states the most important thing, though, is to make gradual progress and to work steadily. “Our goal is a modest five victories. We also want to be competitive in every race we start. However the impact of a team of diabetics doing so will forever change diabetes for our 371 million team members with diabetes in the world.”

In addition to gathering certain results, he wants the team to be able to encourage others to get involved in the cause too. “We hope to work with the race promoters to build diabetes awareness/educational campaigns in their respective countries, to ensure the races they work so hard on leave a long standing impact on the fans,” he said.

But what of the departing riders?

Logically, the new direction of having a 100% diabetic team will have an unavoidable impact on the employment of those who don’t have the condition. A total of seventeen riders are departing the old structure, and these have been searching for new teams for 2013.

Some of those had originally expected to be part of the lineup but as the new team policy emerged, it became clear that they would not fit into the revised structure.

Southerland told VeloNation that the previous financial agreements would be respected. “For riders with two year contracts [2012 and 2013 – ed.], we and our sponsor Novo Nordisk agreed to pay the full amount of their contracts to ensure they found new teams,” he said.

“We worked extremely hard to ensure a good home for all of our athletes, and I will always feel a sense of pride for our 2012 accomplishments.”

Those departing riders were all responsible for the team’s nineteen wins. Alexander Serebryakov was the most successful, the Russian clocking up eleven victories. These included the Philadelphia International Championship plus stages of the Tours of China, Korea, Hainan and Taihu Lake.

Aldo Ino Ilešič clocked up stage wins in the Tour of China I, the Tour de Rio and the Tour of Qinghai Lake. Other wins were also taken by Jure Kocjan, Daniele Colli, Alessandro Bazzana and Vegard Stake Laengen.

All of those are moving on, although the destination for the departing riders is only known in some cases. According to the website CQranking.com, Serebrayakov and Kocjan will go to Euskaltel, Bazzana, Ilesic and Kiel Reijnen are heading to UnitedHealthcare, Julien Antomarchi will don the La Pomme Marseille – Bonitas colours, Remy Cusin will go to IAM Cycling, while Julien El Fares, Filippo Fortin and Georg Preidler will move to Sojasun, Bardiani – CSF Inox and Argos Shimano respectively. Rubens Bertogliati is retiring, as he discussed in his recent VeloNation blog.

That leaves Lazlo Bodrogi, Daniele Callegarin, Daniele Colli and Stake Laengen to confirm their plans.

As those riders work out what they will be doing in 2013, Southerland is pushing on with the team’s new direction. As the team prepares for a training camp in Alicante, he says that he would like to see it serve to rebuild fans’ confidence in the sport.

“I strongly hope that our team, and Novo Nordisk coming to cycling, can be a strong side of how great this sport is,” he said. “We are in a new age of cycling, and we hope to be a strong part of building trust again with the fans and getting them back to the believers they once were.”

Team Novo Nordisk for 2013:

Fabio Calabria (Aus), Andrea Ciacchini (Ita), Stephen Clancy (Irl), Paolo Cravanzola (Ita), Joe Eldridge (USA), Joonas Henttala (Fin), Javier Megias Leal (Spa), Kevin De Mesmaeker (Bel), Justin Morris (Aus), Andrea Peron (Ita), Aaron Perry (NZl), Thomas Raeymaekers (Bel), David Lozano Riba (Spa), Branden Russell (USA), Andrei Strelkov (Rus), Chris Williams (Aus), Martijn Verschoor (Ned).


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