American Continental squad Team Type 1 has big ambitions for the 2011 season, and the wheels are in motion to take their program to the next level. "We're on the verge of announcing some big things with the team which we can't do just yet, but we're going to have a base set up in France and race as a Pro Continental team based out of Europe next year," Phil Southerland, Team Type 1 chief executive officer and founder, told Cyclingnews. "We've submitted our first round of applications [to the UCI], we're on track and we're looking forward to working with the UCI to ensure we are a Pro Continental team next year.
"Our team is all about our mission, spreading the message of diabetes. The only way we're going to spread that on a worldwide basis is by doing races like the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España, and that's our focus."
Team Type 1 is the world's only professional cycling team with a roster that includes riders who have Type 1 diabetes. The team was co-founded four years ago by Southerland and Joe Eldridge, both Type 1 diabetics, as it vied for victory at the Race Across America (RAAM). All eight members of that team were Type 1 diabetic cyclists. It was that achievement that inspired Southerland and Eldridge to strive to put the first Type 1 diabetic rider in the Giro d'Italia in 2011.
Southerland is fully committed to the long-term success and growth of his team, but recently rumours appeared on a social networking site as well as the Cyclingnews Forum alleging that the team is in financial trouble due to riders paying their own way to races, something Southerland is quick to dispel.
"We told our riders at the beginning of the year that our focus would be international expansion and getting ourselves aligned to the Giro [d'Italia] and to do a lot of the ASO races next year and that's what we've been doing," said Southerland. "We could have not done international racing and had the budget to do every criterium in the US this year, but we chose to invest our money doing the Tour of Morocco, Tour de Beauce, Vuelta Mexico Telmex, racing in China and the Tour of California, doing the races that would give us the opportunity to make that next step to Pro Continental and the Giro d'Italia.
"The comment about riders paying their way to race, that is true. Boise [Twilight Criterium] was not a team race, Cascade [Cycling Classic] was not a team race, so if riders wanted to go they were free to go, but they had to pay. However, [Tour of] Qinghai Lake was a team race and all expenses were paid for that race. Tour de Rio is a team race and all expenses were paid for that. We'll be at the Tour of Utah and we'll be at the national championships, both the criterium and road race. Our riders are getting their salaries, and we are absolutely secure for salaries through the end of the year."
Southerland suspects that a person within his organization is responsible for the rumours. "I understand that riders have a very difficult position going year to year, and if they don't get to races they want to do they can be a little bitter, like the team had a personal vendetta against them," said Southerland. "Some people can only see steps one and two in a ten-step process and there's a lot of very short-sighted people out there, but when it comes down to it I'm still getting emails on a daily basis from kids around the world saying, 'I have diabetes, your team has inspired me and I want to be a part of it'.
"We're doing our job and our sponsors are happy. We're going to continue to spread this message and we're going to do it on a worldwide basis next year."