“It is my very sturdy opinion that train is the billion-dollar drug that by no means will get prescribed,” he tells CNN Sport. “I feel the bike saved my life.”
However after taking over biking and embarking on what had beforehand appeared an unlikely skilled profession, Southerland found a dependable technique of controlling his diabetes.
“After I was on the bike, I did not must verify blood sugar, I did not must get insulin,” he says.
Sort 1 diabetes is a illness which causes the physique’s immune system to destroy cells required to make insulin, a hormone that regulates blood glucose ranges. Sort 1 diabetics inject themselves with insulin so cells can take glucose from the blood for power.
In response to the Worldwide Diabetes Federation, greater than 1.1 million kids and adolescents worldwide live with kind 1.
Southerland says biking made him “obsessed about glucose management.” He launched Workforce Sort 1 alongside a good friend in 2006, which ultimately turned Workforce Novo Nordisk in 2013 — an all-diabetic skilled biking crew of 16 riders competing on the UCI World Tour.
“I began pondering — sport is such a strong platform. I assumed the bike could possibly be a approach to promote our story and encourage folks to take management of their diabetes and go and pursue their desires,” says Southerland, who right this moment serves as CEO of Workforce Novo Nordisk.
“We took what 10 years in the past would have been perceived as our best weak spot and turned diabetes into our best energy, which is the unity it brings our crew, the household bond it offers to all of our athletes.
“Diabetes isn’t an excuse for our athletes. We personal the management. We now have difficult days on the diabetes entrance, however these guys work actually exhausting to be one of the best they will at their diabetes administration.”
Having misplaced key riders, Southerland admits there have been “plateaus” within the crew’s progress since climbing to 83rd on the planet rankings in 2015.
Workforce Novo Nordisk had beforehand set a objective of competing on the Tour de France — the holy grail of highway biking — by 2021, which additionally marks 100 years for the reason that discovery of insulin. However the timeline on that objective has been adjusted.
“For me, the Tour de France remains to be very a lot the dream,” says Southerland.
“I am not placing a tough timeline on when now we have to get there. It is extra the journey and the method for us to do it. Someday, we shall be there. And we’ll be there when the time is correct.”
‘Smartest thing that ever occurred’
The dream of competing at one among biking’s three Grand Excursions is shared by Workforce Novo Nordisk rider Sam Model.
“I would like to be on the beginning line of any of the Grand Excursions with a crew made up purely of kind 1 diabetics,” the Isle of Man native tells CNN Sport.
“It might be unbelievable. That’s the final objective. I imply, to toe the beginning line of the Giro, Vuelta or the Tour could be unbelievable.”
Model has a background in triathlon however switched to biking full-time in 2016. He was identified with kind 1 aged 10, coincidentally on November 14 — World Diabetes Day.
“It was 18 and a half years in the past now, and I type of do not keep in mind something earlier than, actually,” says Model.
“I’ve recollections of childhood, however not residing with out diabetes. For me, I at all times say this and a few folks simply snort, however it’s one of the best factor that ever occurred to me.
“It is given me a mission; it is given me a route in life to take for the higher. I at all times see it as a constructive. It isn’t at all times easy, however it’s manageable … growing my routine and my regime to suit what I wish to do, not it controlling me.”
Constructing a crew
Model had beforehand been contacted by Workforce Novo Nordisk after posting a race picture on social media with #changingdiabetes.
The crew usually finds new riders via social media who then feed right into a expertise pipeline. Whereas many biking groups have the posh of cherry-picking riders, Workforce Novo Nordisk has to develop its personal.
“The difficult half for us is the recruitment course of,” says Common Supervisor Vassili Davidenko.
“The place I used to handle earlier than, it’s important to have good budgets; upon getting a price range, you begin procuring round … In our case, it is completely different. There usually are not many riders who’ve diabetes.”
Eight years in the past, the crew began expertise ID camps the place younger cyclists are invited to a summer season coaching camp in Atlanta. Some progress to the junior crew, which in flip feeds into the event crew and the skilled crew.
“We do have this nice pipeline however it’s a good distance earlier than you deliver a rider from level one to level two — level two being knowledgeable biking crew,” says Davidenko.
“We have to discover riders, we have to create them, and we have to information them to the highest degree,” he went on.
“I knew [when I joined] I used to be going into one thing very, very difficult however my persona is that I like challenges … I knew there could be challenges to win races to start with. I knew we had been going to overlook this sense of profitable races.
“However most vital to me was that it was one thing that was superb outdoors of the game that [could] assist folks affected by diabetes to grasp that proper administration can obtain objectives.”
Whereas discovering riders has been testing at occasions, discovering followers has been relatively extra easy for Workforce Novo Nordisk.
“We’re very fashionable on social media, we do have followers across the bus (at races) just about on a regular basis,” says Davidenko.
“In Poland, this woman took a time without work and traveled like 300 kilometers simply to satisfy us at the beginning and to say, ‘I’ve kind 1 diabetes, due to you guys I took management of my administration. You actually impressed me.'”
The coronavirus pandemic means there are presently no races for followers to cheer at, however Workforce Novo Nordisk has stored its riders occupied throughout the lockdown.
Some are counting on indoor coaching, whereas others have been capable of cycle open air with the crew delivering coaching classes through on-line platforms.
In addition to staying sharp on the bike, the riders are inspired to take up different pursuits, together with cooking and yoga.
“If you cycle quite a bit, you do not have the psychological power to be taught and to enhance your data, since you are simply very drained — you eat, you fall asleep, you relaxation,” says Federico Fontana, head of efficiency at Workforce Novo Nordisk.
“Your mind is type of lazy, however now (throughout lockdown) your mind could be very lively and it is drooling to do one thing. So we’re looking for meals when it comes to data, to let riders give attention to a brand new side.”
Coaching 342 days a yr
Fontana is an train physiologist who oversees knowledge group and evaluation at Workforce Novo Nordisk, in addition to main a gaggle of three coaches.
Monitoring coaching for a crew of kind 1 diabetics, he says, is far the identical as with every biking crew.
“The blokes are skilled cyclists first, after which in addition they have diabetes. The way in which we handle their routine, it is like for an athlete with out diabetes,” says Fontana.
“I am not saying it is harder than working with an athlete with out diabetes, however it has an additional layer of complexity — how your physique is responding to train and the way you will face train, having diabetes in a selected second of your day.
“The coaching quantity is just about aligned with different professional groups … Final yr, they did as a gaggle 342 days of coaching, on common, which means they span a few weeks with out coaching over a yr.”
A wider calling
Every rider is provided with a glucose management system that gives crew scientists like Fontana with an abundance of information in relation to the impression diabetes has on coaching, racing, touring, jet lag and sleep.
It is hoped that the monitoring techniques being developed shall be helpful to all kind 1 diabetics.
“My job is working for Workforce Novo Nordisk, however my calling is the diabetes neighborhood,” says Fontana.
“We’re displaying that with good dedication and a primary degree of schooling and dedication … folks with diabetes can do just about every little thing when it comes to train.”
It is a sentiment that is carried all through Workforce Novo Nordisk.
“There is no different crew on the planet that adjustments lives like our crew adjustments lives,” says Southerland.
“Our workers may undoubtedly go to different groups and make extra prize cash over the course of the yr, however while you change somebody’s life, the sensation is priceless.
“That retains our household actually sturdy. Diabetes is the largest energy that our riders and our group possesses.”