One of the fastest growing teams in the USA rolled out its professional squad this week: Team Type 1 is on an ambitious path toward a world-wide presence aimed at not only contesting a Grand Tour but also spreading its message of hope for diabetics.
Team Type 1 has grown into a huge program centered around the mission to 'instill hope and inspiration for people around the world affected by diabetes.' The squad's UCI Continental men's team was just one of six cycling programs supported under the Team Type 1 umbrella and all were invited to a week long training camp that concluded on Thursday in Gainesville, Georgia.
Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge are the two young and highly ambitious co-founders of Team Type 1, both live with Type 1 diabetes. Founded in 2005, the team began to grow after eight Type 1 diabetic cyclists won the Race Across America (RAAM) in 2007. Southerland, soon-to-be 28, is now the CEO of Team Type 1, one of the largest and most successful cycling organizations in the United States of America.
Team Type 1 hosted a training camp for all six teams that included the men and women's professional cycling team, development team, elite team, triathlon team and Team Type 2 squad. The crew totalled 70 athletes and 16 staff members.
"To think that we would have this many programs and moving parts was a just evolution every year," Southerland said. "Our guys have a million and a half people in the US alone, pushing them like a tailwind and cheering for them to accomplish this. I'm pumped with where we are and I'm even more excited about where we can go."
"We are a good organization but we need to be great," he added. "If we are great we will affect that many more lives. If everyone on this team makes small changes to be better than we will hit the sky and the sky is the limit here."
Eldridge is now a leading member of the Team Type 1 pro men's team, an 18-man roster aiming to step up to UCI Professional Continental ranks with ‘wild card' status and hoping for an invitation to the Giro d' Italia next year. Its long term goal is to be the first team to send a cyclist with Type 1 diabetes to the Tour de France in 2012.
This year's roster was bolstered with the addition of Type 1 diabetic Javier Megias Leal from Spain. He was recruited out of the ProTour ranks from Fuji-Servetto. Other riders on the team with Type 1 diabetes include Fabio Calabria, Martijn Verschoor and Alex Bowden.
"I believed I was the only rider in Europe with Type 1 diabetes," Megias said. "I never had a teammate with diabetes before this. This team contacted me last year and I decided that it was a program that I liked. It is interesting to have other teammates that have Type 1 diabetes too. I have a lot of experience and one of my goals is to win a stage of the Tour of California."
Returning riders include Eldridge, Calabria and Michael Creed, Will Dugan, Ken Hanson, Daniel Holt, Aldo Ino Ilesic, Chris Jones, Valeriy Kobzarenko and Shawn Milne. Megias is one of seven new riders including Verschoor, Bowden, Thomas Rabou, Alexi Shmidt, Davide Frattini, Thomas Soladay and Scott Stewart.
"I'm very excited to see the guys race," said Director of Operations, Vassili Davidenko. "This year we have huge reinforcement in our stage racing side and our sprinters made a big step up too. At the stage races we will have what I always dreamed of having, a full roster of guys who can climb in GC and guys who can climb and also sprint. I am very confident and very excited to see what they can do."
Sponsorship introductions and media relations were the focus in the first three days of camp held in the team's headquarters in Atlanta. The team headed north to Gainesville for the second portion of camp that involved long hours training on the bike under near freezing temperatures. Davidenko and new Directeur Sportif Michael Carter designed five plus hour training days with revisits to Wolfpen Gap and Brasstown Bald, notorious ascents from the former Tour de Georgia.
"We had some great training in the last few days," Davidenko said. "It has been a little bit cold but the guys were really excited. I think overall this camp was important to bring everyone together. It was to see new riders with old riders and build their chemistry. My impression is that this is the best roster I have ever worked with. Overall, I am really proud to be apart of this organization because we have so many athletes and divisions and that's what makes this a really unique project."
Team Type 1 pro men target overseas races
Sanofi Aventis and its brands Epidra and Lantus return as one of the leading financial sponsors of Team Type 1. Other returning sponsors include Dex 4 Glucose, Abbott Diabetes Care's Free Style Navigator and Omni Pod. The team signed on Italian bike manufacturer Colnago and Biemme clothing and domestic sponsors Shimano, VSP Vision Care, Map My Ride, Limar and SpiderTech among others.
"There are a lot of changes compared to last year," Davidenko said. "There are more international sponsors involved in this team now because they heard about us, they know this is a really unique program and they want to be a part of it. There is a lot of excitement which is why we want to spend more time overseas so that we get more attention. It will help us with our mission and sponsors will get excited."
Tentative events on the Team Type 1 international calendar include the Tour du Maroc, OCBC Cycle Singapore Criterium, Tour of Japan, Le Tour de Langkawi, Tour de Taiwan, Tour de Korea, Qinghai Lake, Circuit des Ardennes International, Rhône-Alpes Isère Tour, Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste - Trophee des Granitiers, the FBD Ras, Tour of Ireland and Tour of Rwanda.
"We plan to have a dual program," Davidenko said. "This year we will try to do more races in Europe, Asia and Africa because that is the only way we can reach our mission maximally. We will go overseas and hopefully we will do well, educate people who are affected by diabetes and spread our message. That is why we are here. Moving more internationally is our target and Pro Continental is our goal for next year. We want to be there and race there and do well."
Davidenko admitted that juggling a dual program means it will be hard to focus on the National Racing Calendar (NRC). Team Type 1 will target events in the North America that include the San Dimas Stage Race, Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of California, should it receive an invitation, and other UCI races like the Tour of Battenkill and the Tour de Beauce scheduled in the early season.
"It is difficult because there are so many great races in the US and to win the NRC you need to be here full-time," Davidenko said. "Winning the NRC is a good target but I also know that it will be a difficult especially if you plan on being overseas."
"We really want to be at the Tour of California," he added. "I think we have a very competitive team and I believe that we should be able to have something special happen in California. Our roster is strong and I believe that we deserve a spot. It is obviously AEG's decision but with our roster and our unique mission, we change peoples lives and that is huge."