Phil Southerland Interview: The goal is to have an all-diabetic team in the Tour within eight years
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Phil Southerland Interview: The goal is to have an all-diabetic team in the Tour within eight years

by Ed Hood at 7:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Team Novo Nordisk manager explains radical project and sweeping team changes

Phil SoutherlandLast season saw Pro Continental squad Team Type 1 achieve an impressive run of wins, with stage victories in the Tours of Korea, Beauce, Austria, Qinghai Lakes, Limousin, Rio de Janeiro, China, Hainan and Taihu; as well as the jewel in the crown – the Philadelphia International Championship.

Riders like Aldo Ino Ilesic, Alex Serebryakov and Jure Kocjan took the TT 1 to top of the leader board all over the globe.

It was a surprise then, when in the autumn of 2012 the rumours began to circulate that the team was to be dramatically reorganised for season 2013.

The team’s name up until this season, ‘Type 1’ defined the essence of the squad – with a percentage of the squad racing with the condition, Type 1 diabetes; that said, the ‘big hitters’ like Serebryakov were not affected by the condition.

But the 2013 squad is to comprise solely riders with Type 1 diabetes; with the likes of Serebryakov heading to Euskaltel and Ilesic to United Healthcare.

And after five seasons there will be no Team Type 1 jersey in the peloton – with Swiss pharmaceuticals company sponsor Sanofi’s colours replaced by the ‘washing powder advertisement white’ strip of Danish company Novo Nordisk.

VeloNation spoke to team owner, Phil Southerland to hear from the horse’s mouth the reasons for the dramatic changes to his team.

VeloNation: You had five years of momentum with the Team Type 1 name, Phil – why let that go?

Phil Southerland: It wasn’t really my decision, it stung a little to lose the name but to replace it with Novo Nordisk is a great privilege.

VN: But why replace Sanofi?

PS: Sanofi was a great partner and I’m very grateful to them for their support. But the deal with Novo Nordisk came with a challenge.

We’re taking the ‘Team Sky’ approach; we’re in it for the long run. Novo Nordisk’s DNA in the fight against diabetes goes back 90 years so they plan long term – and our goal is eventually to have a team comprised solely of athletes with diabetes compete in the Tour de France.

When I first had lunch with the senior vice president of Novo Nordisk, Jakob Riis he was really excited about the prospect of using the team as a platform for the company. But having the team in the Tour de France was the big challenge.

VN: Why 100% diabetic athletes?

PS: Jakob was delighted to enter into a partnership with us but at the same time he challenged us – and it may seem like an impossible goal to some – he wants to build a team comprised solely of diabetic athletes and for that team to ride the Tour de France.

Originally our goal was to take the team Pro Tour for 2013; but now we’re really pushing the limits and again attempting to do the impossible.

Phil SoutherlandVN: How do you find the athletes?

PS: That’s largely down to our manager, Vassili Davidenko he puts the word out and is always studying what’s happening with young riders from Russia, New Zealand, Spain - all over the globe - to see which names are popping up.

We thought we may struggle but we with riders moving up from the development team we have a roster of 17 riders – and we’ll be running a junior summer camp for 18 riders.

VN: Wouldn’t it have been better to go back down to Continental level?

PS: The thought did cross my mind but if we registered a Continental team in the USA then we’d have to have half of the riders of US origin.

We’ve had a service course established in Europe for a long time now and as a Pro Continental team we can compete in many of the European World Tour races.

However, our development team will be Continental.

VN: Wasn’t it a wrench letting riders like Ilesic go? He’s been with you five years?

PS: Yes, that was the toughest part of the transaction; we cultivated a family atmosphere on the squad and to let guys go hurt.

But we let them know early, on August 1st giving them plenty time to find a new team – and we honoured the agreements with guys whose contracts still had a year to run.

And in certain cases we helped guys get rides for this year.

VN: How have organisers responded…are you getting the invites?

PS: It’s been very good; we would have ridden the Tour of Mexico and GP Lugano if they hadn’t been cancelled - and of course we rode Laigueglia.

We already have one day races in Holland, the Coppi e Bartali, Catalunya, the Tour of Turkey and good one day races in France.

VN: Who are the men you expect the results to come from?

PS: Javier Megias and Martijn Verschoor are our two ‘veterans’ – they’re both hungry; the last few years they’ve been in the service of our sprinters but now they’re leaders.

Despite that Javier was third in the GP Plumelec-Morbihan last season and Martijn this year has already had two top twenty placings in the Mallorcan races.

David Lozano and Fabio Calabria are another two who are on the way up – and Andrea Peron won the Astico-Brenta Italian amateur classic in 2010.

Novo NordiskVN: What about that team strip – it’s very white...

PS: Novo Nordisk’s corporate image is very clean; they do most of their design in house and want to do everything perfectly.

Their message is ‘Changing Diabetes’ and that’s what’s on the jersey, that’s what’s most visible.

Nick Adams is in charge of brand and design with Novo Nordisk and he analysed all of the jerseys in the peloton to find a design which would stand out from the rest – and our jersey certainly does that.

VN: What would make 2013 a success for you?

PS: If we won some races! In 2012 we won 20 races; if we can win five in 2013 then I’ll be happy.

It’s a young team and we’re developing riders to move up; the US Pro Challenge is a real goal, we’d like to have a rider finish top ten in that.

But the ultimate goal is to have an all diabetic team in the Tour de France by 2021.

Our manager Vassili Davidenko is nothing if not a realist and he thinks it’s possible...

But it’s not just about winning races, it’s about showing people what’s possible if you have diabetes and the message that we should all ride a bike for our own personal health and well being.


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