Team Novo Nordisk, which has stocked its roster with only Type 1 diabetics since 2013, secured its first major success on the world's stage on Saturday, with Quentin Valognes taking out the intermediate sprint classification on the final stage.
Valognes, who picked up six points on stage 4 as part of the breakaway, jumped into the day's early move again on Saturday, taking second in the first sprint at Al Mamzar Beach Park. He needed to win the next sprint to overtake overnight sprint leader Nathan van Hooyndonck (BMC Racing).
"Today, because I have points, I needed to go again. I needed to win a sprint to win the jersey," Valognes said. When it came to the Union Flag sprint after 104.8km, the 21-year-old powered clear to take it by a large margin, and only needed to finish safely to take home the jersey.
"The team spirit since stage 1 has been unbelievable. We've been in every single breakaway and aggressive on every single stage. Our mission is to inspire, educate and empower people affected by diabetes. It wasn't just my performance; it was the performance of the whole team that shows we are changing diabetes," Valognes said.
It is a remarkable result because in Type 1 diabetics, the body's immune system malfunctions and destroys the ability to make insulin, without which the body cannot make energy from sugars. The riders must get therapeutic use exemptions to take insulin and closely monitor their blood sugar. Until recently, it was more difficult for Type 1 diabetics to excel in endurance sports, but advances in treatments have lowered performance barriers. Still, the team has fought to get results in the biggest races, with one stage of the Tour of the Philippines in 2014 and a few most aggressive riders' jerseys their best results.
The team's CEO and Co-Founder Phil Southerland was thrilled with the team's performances in Dubai, especially after he fought to secure a late two-year deal with the title sponsor to continue at the Pro Continental level that meant reducing the size of the programme and more pressure to perform to raise the squad's morale.
"I'm so proud of what the team did today because it was every single rider on the team attacking and fighting and finally Quentin got in the breakaway," Southerland said. "He took some sprints, earned the jersey and helped us change diabetes for the world. A very proud day for Team Novo Nordisk, a great week for us in Dubai and an amazing way to show the world what is possible with diabetes."
Team Novo Nordisk's season continues this month at the Abu Dhabi Tour.