Targeting the 2021 Tour de France
Team Novo Nordisk is competing in their third consecutive AMGEN Tour of California this week. Heading into the final two days of racing, the team’s best placed rider is veteran, Javier Megias, siting 16th on GC.
Originally named, Team Type 1, the team was founded in 2008. Novo Nordisk came on board in 2012, when the squad switched to an all-type 1 diabetes roster. The mission continues to be one of inspiration and education, working with Novo Nordisk to learn what is possible and how to manage diabetes for athletes.
USCR spoke with CEO and Co-Founder of the team, Phil Southerland, before the start in South Pasadena earlier this week about the team’s goals and aspirations for the rest of the season.
USCR's Rebecca Reza talks with Team Novo Nordisk' Phil Southerland.
Tell us about the squad the team has here in California? and the goal for the team coming into the race?
It’s a tough Tour of California route this year, probably the hardest it’s ever been. We’ve got Javi [Megias] who will probably be good for today [stage 3] and tomorrow and then on stage 6, for the TT. We have some young guys, Charles Planet, who he could be a good guy for breakaways, maybe the KOM jersey.
We want visibility here. Visibility is priority, but the most visibility comes from a stage win. We’re looking at Javier; he’s got opportunities. Martijn [Verschoor] was close with a 5th place finish on stage 1; he’ll obviously be going for Sacramento again. Then we have Chris Williams, Stephen Clancy, and Joonas [Henttala] who was in the break yesterday. We have a pretty well rounded team.
A few years ago you were on a campaign to get the team into the Giro d’Italia, does that remain a goal for the team?
We’ve had good conversations with RCS [Sports] already. We’re taking a status check after the Tour of Poland, which is our first WorldTour stage race coming up in July. Pending the team’s performance and our ranking in July, we’ll make a press for the Giro, possibly next year. Most likely 2018 is the target for the Giro.
Many teams struggle to keep sponsors for more than several years at a time, you have a strong backing with Novo Nordisk. How long does the current contract run and what is your relationship like with the Danish company?
We have an amazing partner with Novo Nordisk, they’ve been focused on diabetes care for 93 years. They’re based in Copenhagen and have 40,000 employees in 180 countries around the world. They take a long-term approach to things, because in the drug development world, from idea to the first box getting into the patients hand is a 10-year time horizon.
When we talk about long-term plans for the team, and make a good case for the step-by-step process to get in there. It’s very easy for them to understand. They’re not a company that is quarter-to-quarter on financials and results, they take a very long-term approach, it’s year-by-year, decade-by-decade, and it’s how they judge themselves. It’s why they’ve been the best in diabetes for the last 93 years.
Being a pharmaceutical company, how much are they focused on results from the team vs. working with the athletes in developing treatments and other products to manage diabetes?
They like results, we’re judged by our sponsor by our [UCI] ranking. We finished our first year in 2013 in 140th, 2014 in 130th, last year we finished 83rd. Our target this year is 60-65th. We’re making about a 20% improvement on our ranking year after year, which should get us to where we need to be for our wild card invitation to the Tour de France in 2021.
Back to California, what are the team’s goals in coming to compete here at the race?
We want to inspire everyone in the world with diabetes to dream big. The only way you can do that in bicycle racing is the Tour de France. We’re coming up on the 100th anniversary with life for people with diabetes in 2021, and ideally we’d like to globally make empowerment visible for all by putting an all Type 1 team in the Tour de France. That’s the goal, and the laser focus with the team. We’re making good progress.