Phil Southerland Interview: Team Type 1's man with a mission
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Phil Southerland Interview: Team Type 1's man with a mission

by Neil Browne at 10:21 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 

Phil Southerland from Team Type 1 is a man on a mission – a mission to spread the word of diabetes, not just here in the States but internationally. His life resembles George Clooney's character from the movie, Up In The Air - always traveling and constantly in meetings from one side of the globe to the next. Monday Dubai, Wednesday Madrid and who knows where Friday. However, each meeting has a purpose, to further spread the message of diabetes and push forward the Team Type 1 program.

The 2009 season started slowly for the team, but as the season progressed, so did the victories. However, with Southerland frequently stating that the goal of the team was to race in the Tour de France in 2012, he needed to step up the program. With some international recruiting, Southerland, along with team director Vassili Davidenko, have poached a few riders with ProTour experience who have a real possibility of snagging stage wins in the upcoming Tour of California. And with these victories Southerland knows that this will only increase the amount of people who hear the message of the fight against diabetes.

VeloNation was able to carve some time out of Phil Southerland's busy schedule during the team's recent training camp and got him to sit down to discuss the evolution of the team, what steps he's taking to take the team to the next level and how he's still on track for 2012 as the year Team Type 1 races in the Tour de France.

VeloNation: The team had been together at training camp for the past six days. How is the team jelling?

Phil Southerland: This is our second year in having these six programs [pro men, pro women, development, elite, triathlon and Team Type 2]. Last year everyone came out not knowing what to expect or how big the family was. It was overwhelming for some of the guys. This year each program had its own identity and knew who they were and what their purpose was. They had friendship bonds from last year, so they are having a good time laughing and making fun of each other.

The biggest difference between this year and last year is that there wasn't pro men over here and pro women over there. All the teams sit together at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every person on the team is equal and has a purpose – they are here to help spread the message. That equality set the tone and it has been great to see the interaction among the guys. I think a lot of that is due to the management we have. Everyone has been focused on Team Type 1 hundred percent of the time, which has been a good shift for us.

Vassili [Davidenko – team director] has been keeping the managers in check. We had a managers meeting last week and everyone is focused on Team Type 1 and growing this program. We have 70 athletes among all our teams, 25 management and staff with some paid, some volunteer and all working to move this ship along. It's exciting to see the energy and that passion. It's special for me to see and they have been coming up to me to say how thrilled they were to be a part of this team. That means a lot to me.

Shawn Milne wins the Air Force ClassicVN: Speaking of moving the ship along, you stated that your goal in 2012 is to be in the Tour de France. Are you still on that path toward the Tour for 2012?

PS: I've opened my big mouth too many times to renege on that promise. We have put some intermediary goals between the Tour and now we have some European plans, as well as Asian plans, this year. With our partnership with Colnago and Shimano – a two year partnership- they want to see us at the Giro in 2011. That's our steppingstone. It's one of the most beautiful races in the world. We have big hopes to be in the Giro and potentially the Vuelta in 2011 and do the full shebang in 2012. But seeing how BMC has run their model it may make sense to run it as a Pro Continental Team for two years before making the jump to ProTour status. That will depend on the funding and how we get it. Their program and how they've done it gives me hope for smaller incremental steps so it will show our sponsors the value we bring on a long term basis.

VN: To be invited to the big races the organizers look at not only the funding of the team but the quality of the riders on the team as well. What are you doing to get the quality of a riders necessary to field a Tour de France team?

PS: You are not going to get quality riders without the management so we have moved the entire Team Type 1 headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia. We have 10 people in that office full-time. We brought on Mike Carter who rode for Motorola and has been part of the best teams in the world. One of our mechanics, Steve, used to work for HTC-Columbia. We have people that have learned from Bob Stapleton, and how he ran his business.

For me, this is my first year as full-time manager and I am relying on those people to help me understand what needs to be done to run the tightest ship we can run. We have had some stumbling blocks along the way, which were to be expected. But we are writing down those stumbling blocks so for next year we can do it better from start to finish. With this good management and the guys on the team knowing that they are on the team to race bikes and nothing else, along with an increase in funding, we can bring the top talented riders in to help take our team to the next level.

We will have to increase the size of our team and we'll probably be looking at 22 to 25 riders next year. Hopefully some of those guys will have won a race at the ProTour level to help our team get to those big races. And not just to be there, but be competing and winning. On the diabetes side Joe Eldridge has made a big steppingstone in development and has been here since the beginning -five years – Fabio Calabriahas made some increases and is getting better and becoming more comfortable. We hope to see him attacking in the big races this year. We also brought on Martijn Verschoor who's a sprinter with type 1. His diabetes control has changed 100% since he has gotten here. That has given him a huge increase in confidence. He has told me that this is unbelievable what I have taught him these past five days. That's a big win for me, a big win for him and a big win for the program.

Javier Megias is from Spain and a ProTour rider [formerly Fuji-Servetto] with diabetes. He told me on the training ride that his goal is to win a stage at the Tour of California. Our goal at the Tour of California is to win a stage or come back with a jersey - maybe both. That would be a huge jump for us and worldwide exposure for Team Type 1.

VN: How do you find these riders with diabetes? Do you search them out or do they find you?

PS: Matty Wilson was racing with Javier at the Tour Down Under last year and said there is a legit guy who is a ProTour rider with type 1 diabetes. He got his contact info and Javier and I started talking. It was a long recruiting process to convince a guy on a ProTour level to come to a continental team in the United States.

Martijn saw us race at the Tour of California and sent me a note. We stayed in touch over eight or nine months and it wasn't until the Tour of Ireland that himself, his father and his agent took a meeting with us. It was right after Matty Wilson won the King of the Mountains. We got to know him and he got to know us and he was the right fit for our program. I'm not going to say that recruiting guys from overseas and getting them to race in the completely unknown is easy, but it is a unique team and we hope with our international expansion and doing these bigger races and winning these bigger races will get more guys coming to us.

Davide Frattini said he has gotten so many e-mails from people with diabetes who race bicycles. Maybe we pick up a French or Italian rider who has diabetes and is a higher caliber rider that can elevate this program and possibly attract a Fabian Cancellara or someone of that quality to help make sure we are always winning.

VN: The team is racing for a cause – to promote the awareness of diabetes. However, last year the team finished the Tour of California with only three riders. Do you feel the pressure from sponsors to win more?

PS: When we are winning races everyone on the team is happy. When we are not winning races moral is not good. I want good morale from all my riders because that is going to let the message get farther. The Tour of California was embarrassing last year. My iliac endofybrosis was back and two months later I was done with bike racing for good.

We could use the weather for an excuse but guess what, a lot of guys finished the race and they all rode through the weather. A lot of guys didn't ride up to our expectation, but we started clicking as the year went on. Aldo Ilesic won a criterium, then Ken [Hansen] won a crit, then our stage race team won a king of the mountain somewhere. Once we started clicking, we started to fire on all cylinders. We were competing at the Tour of Ireland against Columbia, Garmin, Astana and some of the best teams in the world and we walk away with the King of the Mountains jersey. That got contagious. Darren Lill won stage at the Tour of Utah and we go to the Tour of Missouri and we get most aggressive rider on two stages and the King of the Mountains jersey. On one day we had Matt Wilson on one side of the podium, Moises Aldape on the other and Thor Hushovd with Mark Cavendish in the middle.

So when you say do sponsors want results, hell yes, they want results! But guess what, we did deliver results, just not in that first race we did last year. We are fortunate that California is a bit later because we don't have the luxury of racing the Tour Down Under or Tour of Qatar this year. But this year we have a pretty good schedule to get our guys in top form in advance of California so we can have that Missouri-like performance at California. I expect a stage win or jersey at the Tour of California. I want to see my guys at the podium and I have no doubt with the guys I have right now, along with the drill sergeants I have, Vassili Davidenko and Mike Carter, we are going to make that happen. We have done interviews with the majority of our riders and everyone's goal is to be at the Tour of California. That is what our guys are going for. We are going there expecting results. The results will enable a message to reach millions.

VN: So, if this was a mathematical equation then victory equals spreading the message?

PS: Victory plus message equals millions of lives around the world being impacted. Racing plus message equals a lot of lives being impacted, but that first answer cut in half. Everyone on this team knows that when you win it is proof that it can be done.

When a 12-year-old who has been diagnosed with diabetes sees that a team with diabetes is winning bike races maybe he starts riding a bike. Some kids going through their rebellious teen-age years may drive fast or drink, but kids with diabetes don't take care of themselves and do long-term damage. But if you are riding a bike you have to have good blood control. Kids realize that and they just do things better. Victory is our number one goal this year, and with that the sponsors will be happy and more sponsors will want to be a part of this program.

Team Type 1’s 2010 Roster:
Fabio Calabria*, Michael Creed, Will Dugan, Joe Eldridge*, Davide Frattini, Ken Hanson, Daniel Holt, Aldo Ino Ilesic, Chris Jones, Valeriy Kobzarenko, Shawn Milne, Javier Megias*, Thomas Rabou, Alexey Shmidt, Thomas Soladay, Scott Stewart, Martijn Verschoor*.
*Indicates rider who has Type 1 diabetes.

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