“Diabetes has never been an excuse for this team.” - Phil Southerland, Team CEO and Co-Founder
Jacqueline Middleton, Sports Reporter for the USA Pro Challenge
Boasting routes that take pro cyclists to the highest elevations of any race in North America or Europe, the brash young Colorado-based USA Pro Challenge has already made cycling history.
The first six days of this weeklong competition punished the cyclists with almost 43,000 feet of climbing in thin air – the ultimate test of rider strength and endurance in the mountains.
But Stage 7, the final race of the 2013 USA Pro event, is flat – a hot, pounding, 72.4-mile circuit through the streets of downtown Denver.
And Stage 7 is just minutes away from starting. For the sprinters on every team, it comes down to this moment. This day would be the sprinters’ dream.
Under glorious blue Colorado skies, the teams line up for the start. One of the newer contenders is Team Novo Nordisk – comprised of 17 professional cyclists from 10 different countries. Each of them has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
For all pro riders, cycling is a life’s passion. But for members of Team Novo Nordisk, cycling means even more – it provides the power of exercise that helps them manage their type 1 diabetes and their quality of life.
Belief in this power motivated Team Novo Nordisk CEO and co-founder Phil Southerland to develop a global athletic program that would inspire people affected by diabetes to use exercise to change their lives.
When he was just 7 months old, Southerland was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Doctors told his mother that he’d likely be blind, or dead, by age 25. Southerland says, “But my mother never let me feel different from any other child. She never let me use diabetes as my excuse.”
As a youth, Southerland discovered that exercise helped him control and manage his diabetes. By age 12, he had taken up bicycling. Today, at age 31, he’s never looked back.
It was Southerland who conceived the idea of an all-diabetic pro cycling team. Riding on a wave of earlier successes, he co-founded Team Novo Nordisk in 2013.
With the decision to participate in this year’s USA Pro Challenge event, Team Novo Nordisk opened an exciting new chapter in its “Changing Diabetes” story.
Now, as countdown begins at the USA Pro Stage 7 starting line in Denver, one of Team Novo Nordisk’s young riders, Italian Andrea Peron, is especially eager to launch. The previous day, Andrea had finished sixth in Stage 6 – 117 miles of hilly terrain from Loveland to Ft. Collins.
Given the world-class caliber of the competition in this event, including the world’s Number One-ranked Chris Froome and Number Two Peter Sagan, a Top 10 finish in any one of the seven stages would be a coup. But a second Top 10 would serve notice to the cycling world that this cyclist – and Team Novo Nordisk – were contenders to be reckoned with.
The loud “crack” of the starting gun, and they’re off. Quickly, a seven-man break forms that would hold for most of the race – including Andrea’s teammate, David Lozano Riba, a talented Spanish rider.
On the flat, fast Denver circuit, the cyclists’ speeds were averaging a searing 45 mph.
Now the racers were approaching the last lap. All the teams prepared to put their sprinters into position for the final dash to the finish line.
Team Novo Nordisk sprinter Andrea Peron finished a solid 8th, behind the likes of legendary Tour de France sprinter Peter Sagan, who took first place.
Another Top Ten coup for Peron – and for the team.
Ten years ago, Andrea Peron was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. That’s when he decided the condition would never slow him down. Now, with back-to-back Top 10 finishes in an event that spotlighted the “best of the best” in professional cycling – Andrea proved to the world that all is possible with great diabetes control.
Team Novo Nordisk climbed to new heights in the Colorado high country with three top-10 finishes in “America’s Toughest Pro Cycling Race.” By the end of the USA Pro Stage 7 event, Team Novo Nordisk, all athletes with type 1 diabetes – proved they’re “rocking the world” of pro cycling.
But that’s not all. Team Novo Nordisk’s success in the 2013 USA Pro event strengthened their determination to inspire in ways that transcend competitive cycling – to motivate people around the world affected by diabetes.
Andrea Peron’s new Number One goal? “I want to be that first rider with type 1 diabetes to win the Giro d’Italia!”