By Joe Silva
Team Type 1 founder Phil Southerland jumped into the team car following a good four hours or so of riding in subfreezing temps and jabbed a hypodermic needle into his thigh.
If you’ve ever done a long stretch inside one of these vehicles during a race, you know things can get real gooey — bottles roll around the floorboards, and spare parts and tires fly everywhere when the driver takes a corner at 50-mph-plus. It’s not the sort of place where you’d expect to see a guy taking an injection.
But that’s exactly what you might have seen if you’d attended Team Type 1’s recent training camp in and around the mountains of North Georgia. Southerland and team co-founder Joe Eldridge were putting their riders through their paces in weather that’s normally not associated with the deep South. By the time new addition Scott Stewart took the lead up Neels Gap, the team was climbing into a curtain of thick snowflakes.
The top of the mountain and the surrounding peaks essentially disappeared in a whiteout, and layers removed were pulled back on as the riders topped 3,700 feet. Southerland had offered a $200 prime for whoever hit the top first, and Stewart won it by a good margin, but no one was thinking about the prize as they flipped it and dove back down the mountain to warmer weather.
Team Type 1 has been notorious for starting slow, Southerland says. Not this year.
“It’s typically end of April or early May where we start to gel. But we’re putting the pressure on these guys to fire on all cylinders from the start (of the season),” he says. “We have them riding in the snow here in Georgia to toughen them up. Not saying that it was planned, but we’re going to run with it.”
Stewart may have grabbed the cash, but he’s not the only uphill firepower that Southerland has brought to the 2010 squad. Freshly imported from Fuji-Servetto is Spanish rider Javier Megias. Like Southerland and Eldridge, Megias is a type 1 diabetic and is thrilled to get a pro ride that’s sensitive to his medical situation.
“They’re treating me very well,” says the 26-year-old Spaniard from Madrid. “And with all of the equipment they’ve been able to give me to monitor my blood sugar, I feel a lot more confident. In the past I would race based on sensations, and I’d be somewhat scared, but with all they know about how to deal with diabetes on the road I think I’m going to improve quite a bit.”
Megia raced for Fuji-Servetto last year. Athough he’s unfamiliar with American racing, he thinks he’ll be a good fit as the Team Type 1 program continues to expand and include more European events.
“It’s going to be a little bit of an adventure for me because I don’t know the races here like I do in Europe. They tell me it’s going to be very different,” he says. “But at the same time this team is trying to grow towards the European scene, so I can help in that respect.”
It’s hoped that Megias will be one of Team Type 1’s biggest assets should the squad receive a return invitation to the Amgen Tour of California. Despite having been disappointed with their results at the 2009 edition, sporting director Vassili Davidenko still holds that it is a major goal of their new organization.
“California is still a major target,” says the former crit specialist turned director. “Last year was tough because of weather conditions and because half of the team got sick. But with the roster we have this year, we’ll be very, very competitive.”
Newcomers include Martijn Verschoor, a young type 1 diabetic from the Dutch Continental team Slenema & Co. Belastingadviseur, who brings added firepower to Team Type 1’s criterium campaigns. He joins their established sprinter Aldo Ilesic, who won his first NRC race in 2009 at the Hanes Park Classic. Ilesic has spent the winter shaving off nearly nine pounds from his 6-foot-plus frame and has arrived at camp with extra power for hillier terrain.
Added to that package is Tom Soladay, who outshone much of the competition at last year’s USA CRITS Speed Week while riding for Team Mountain Khakis and also took the sprint prize at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. Unfortunately Soladay discovered recently that he had contracted a case of Epstein-Barr and as a result has had to scale back his early season training.
“I didn’t know anything about it until three weeks ago.” Soladay says after a condensed training ride. “Looking back on it I was probably dealing with it in November but January was bad. But I’ve ridden every day this week.”
Soladay feels that if there’s any team in the sport geared to give an athlete support during an illness, it’s this one. And he’s been assured that while Team Type 1 will be able to capitalize on his strong criterium performances once he recovers, it will continue to work towards his overall development.
“There were a few other teams that offered me contracts, but I felt that Vassili and the organization had more faith in me as a rider and in my potential. I felt like I’d have more opportunity to advance as a stage racer,” he says.
Also new to the Team Type 1 ranks are former Katusha Continental rider and pursuit specialist Alexey Shmidt, former Rabobank Continental rider Thomas Rabou and veteran Davide Frattini.
New Carter administration
Davidenko and Southerland have added longtime pro Michael Carter as the team’s assistant sporting director. Carter, who was on the first American team to race the Giro d’Italia (Gianni Motta’s 1984 squad), got the word in August 2009 that there might be an opportunity with Southerland’s growing outfit. And while he didn’t have a hand in selecting some of the talent that was brought on board this year, he’s happy with what he’s seen during camp.
“They’re very well rounded. They have the sprinters, and they have the climbers. It’s a solid team.”