Jacqueline Middleton, Sports Reporter from the USA Pro Challenge Stage 7
At the ready. Team Novo Nordisk awaits the start of Stage 7 of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Denver, Colorado.
Seventeen professional cyclists, from 10 different countries, all living successfully with type 1 diabetes. Introducing Team Novo Nordisk, the first professional cycling team of its kind, consisting entirely of athletes with type 1 diabetes.
We met CEO and team co-founder Phil Southerland on a brilliant, blue-sky August day in downtown Denver, Colorado. Phil moved quickly about the Team Bus Staging area, offering encouragement to a cyclist, finalizing a support detail with a staff member, and preparing for the start of the race. This was the grand finale of Colorado’s legendary USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Sixteen teams. 600+ heart-pounding miles. 42,000+ feet of climbing. A lifetime of preparation. And now, the USA Pro Challenge contenders had arrived at Stage 7, the final stage of this grueling seven-day cycling event. In less than 60 minutes, Team Novo Nordisk – and 15 other professional teams – would launch. And every team was looking for victory.
Unlike the previous days in the mountains, today’s stage was flat, a 75-mile circuit designed for the sprinter. Team Novo Nordisk’s two sprinters were ready. Martijn Verschoor, the team’s 28-year-old Dutch cyclist, says, "We’ve had a good week, but we can do better. Today’s the first day in the flats, so Andrea Peron and I are ready to go. We want to sprint!"
Can a group of cyclists with type 1 diabetes compete successfully in a tough, physically demanding event like the USA Pro Challenge? How do they check their insulin levels during the race? How do they control their blood sugar?
Phil Southerland explains, "Everyone uses a continuous glucose monitor. This is the fortune-teller for diabetes, the indicator of whether their levels are going up, going down.
Novo Nordisk Team CEO Phil Southerland: "Diabetes
has never been an excuse for our team!"
"Each of our cyclists uses a monitoring device that’s like an iPhone for diabetes. It updates every 5 minutes, giving them constant info about their blood sugar. With that data, they can react – with food, or insulin, or ‘OK, everything’s good right now so I’ll just keep on going.’
"We really rely on our technology. We’ve raced without it before, but it’s now a standard with us. We’ve even developed some pretty strong protocols for management. It has revolutionized our ability to put a team like this together."
Phil adds, "Diabetes has never been an excuse for our team. That’s the big thing. It’s never diabetes that causes us not to win – just bike racing stuff. Technical problems, an accident maybe – but never the diabetes.
Ready to roll.The Novo Nordisk Team bicycles – at Stage 7 of the
USA Pro Cycling Challenge, Denver, Colorado.
"There are 16 teams here, everyone has a goal to win, and we’re going to fight like the rest of them. Our guys are going to do their best. They’re going to inspire others who have diabetes – whatever they do."
Team sprint specialist, Martijn Verschoor: "My goal this year is to win races
and show the world you can perform with diabetes."