Phil Southerland Interview: Winning Tour of Turkey and planning ahead
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Saturday, May 07, 2011

Phil Southerland Interview: Winning Tour of Turkey and planning ahead

by Ed Hood at 2:52 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
 
Team Type 1 moves up a gear with high profile win

Phil SoutherlandFrom low to high: fortunes turned for Team Type 1 on May 1st when, weeks after it suffered its toughest moment when hundreds of thousands of euros-worth of bikes and equipment were stolen, it grabbed the biggest win of its career. The American Pro Continental squad finished best in the Presidential Tour of Turkey, where Alexander Efimkin triumphed.

Taking the 2.HC-ranked race was no mean feat, with some very aggressive racing requiring intelligent riding before nabbing the race lead, then some strong defending afterwards. It’s of huge importance to the squad, which is pushing hard for a place in the UCI WorldTour and, with it, a ride in cycling’s biggest events.

Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge founded the team in time for the 2008 season, with the primary goals being to feature riders with Type 1 diabetes, to show it is possible to race with the condition, and also to raise awareness. Both have the disease and have competed with the squad. Indeed Eldridge remains an active rider with the team to this day.

Southerland has continued to build the team and now he wants to go global; he listed listing participation in the 2011 Giro d’Italia and the 2012 Tour de France as big targets for the team at the start of this season. And whilst Giro selection eluded him this year, it’s now a more realistic prospect for 2012 after the team’s successes in Turkey.

VeloNation spoke to him twice recently, both before the Team Type 1 squad took the lead in Turkey, and then again after Efimkin won the race. Unsurprisingly, Southerland was very proud with how things turned out, and motivated to keep building towards even bigger plans and targets.

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VeloNation: Phil, Team Type 1 has just taken its biggest result ever in the Presidential Tour of Turkey. Can you talk to us about that?

Phil Southerland:
I was obviously following the race closely and I travelled to Turkey for the last day. I got there just as the team arrived at the hotel.

The riders and staff were just so elated, Vassili Davidenko our DS was over the moon. It's been a long time coming but that was our first HC stage race and our first win - it was pure joy.

The team was excellent, particularly Laszlo Bodrogi and Rubens Bertogliati driving on the day we took the jersey.'

VN: It must have been a huge boost to Alexander Efimkin’s confidence and self belief?

PS: Yes…I was talking to him after the stage and he was so happy that his wife and son had seen him win. His brother and friends too had all seen the race on TV. It was a great moment!

After the race, as the other teams headed out to the disco to party, we had a nice dinner and some champagne. But all of our guys were in bed for 11:00 - the number one focus for us is the Amgen Tour of California; Alex knows he can win and the team knows he can win…and we're gonna have a damn good shot at winning!'

VN: What difference will the win make to the team?

PS: There were viewers in 120 countries who saw us win that race and all of them are now aware of what our message is - and we're proud to be helping diabetics.

The win has delighted our sponsors, Sanofi-Aventis, and it's one I'll remember forever. But our goal is still the Pro Tour and to ride the Tour de France.

VN: Prior to the Turkey result, how was the team being accepted?

PS: Our acceptance has been good, which I think is down to the fact that we practice aggressive, attacking racing. We are gearing up for the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse.

VN: Turkey aside, what have the season’s other highlights been?

PS: We’ve had eight podiums and 23 top ten’s so far. Yuri Kocjan’s fourth place in the Montepaschi Strade Bianche was awesome.

The other thing that has impressed me is that we have guys from eight different countries riding as one and displaying great team spirit – our DS Vassili Davidenko has done a great job.

VN: The team had a lot of bikes and equipment stolen at the Coppi Bartali race…can you tell us about that?

PS: That was a major headache; but things happen – there are bad people out there. The worst thing was that we missed the last stage of the race.

But our sponsors were amazing; Colnago, Shimano and Park all rallied round and did a great job.

VN: That issue aside, what have been the other disappointments?

PS: Not getting into the Giro was a disappointment, but it gave us focus to bring in good performances in other races …and we’ve got our invite to the Tour de Suisse.

The target for 2012 is the Pro Tour, on a base of ethical riders and good results.

VN: In hindsight, what would you do differently?

PS: I wished I’d hired police to guard the bikes at the Coppi Bartali! - but we came back from that pretty seamlessly.

Phil SoutherlandVN: What the racing been like so far?

PS: The Italian and French races are a whole different scene to the US and it’s been great to be part of them all. But the one we’re really excited about is the Amgen Tour of California – that’s the big one.

The guys were using the Tour of Turkey as preparation, and they said that’s a good race with great accommodation and organization.

VN: How are your sponsors reacting?

PS: They love it, when we take Sanofi-Aventis reps in the team car they’re just blown away. The French guys especially love it.

We’ve had Italian and Turkish Sanofi-Aventis guys in the car and they realize how hard the sport is; but it proves that athletes with Type One diabetes can be competitive.

VN: And how are you received by race organizers as the ‘new kids on the block?’

PS: Good – the Haut Var organizer has Type One diabetes and was very supportive of our aims. Marcus Zberg, the organizer of the Tour de Suisse is excited about having us on the race.

Organizers like that we don’t just rely on a ‘super star,’…we attack races and want to be in those breaks – not just one rider but a lot of our guys.

VN: How’s the budget? The downfall of many teams is spending too much too soon.

PS: We keep very tight tabs on what we spend – remember that it’s not just about the pro teams; we have six different programmes running so we have to be diligent.

If someone overspends one month then he has to bring it back the next month.

We already have our funds in place for the Pro Tour application in September – our planning is good but you have to budget for problems, too.

VN: What’s next?

PS: After Turkey we have California – the athletes who are riding in the US will have a break then train at altitude. Rubens Bertogliati and Alexander Efimkin will be getting a shot at California.

VN: With the Lampre investigation going on, doesn’t this make life difficult for someone who goes out to attract sponsors?

PS: Every sponsor pitch I’ve done in the last four years has taken place as a scandal has broken – it’s frustrating. But the message from the sport is that; ‘the cheats are getting caught.’

Our stance is clear – when we were Division Three we missed races so as we could pay for our internal testing programme.

VN: What’s your view on the race radio issue?

PS: I can see both sides; you gotta keep the riders safe – it’s good that the DS can talk to his riders; and we have riders whose blood needs to be monitored constantly [for diabetes].

I certainly think that riders should be at least made aware of dangers that are coming up…and I’d have liked the dialogue about the radio situation to be a bit friendlier.

VN: What’s next for the team?

PS: We have California coming up – we want a stage win there and a good overall placing. In the Suisse we just want the guys to ride their hearts out.

But longer term, by November 15th I want to be able to tell my sponsors that we’re riding the Tour de France!
 

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