Arriving at Stone Mountain on Friday afternoon I was still a bit nervous but as soon as the doors opened the pro team was sitting around the fire on their phones and talking/joking with each other. This is the side of the team that I was hoping that I would see all weekend long. As I checked in I walked over to talk to some behind the scenes members of Team Novo Nordisk and a gentleman built much like myself was walking down the hallway in his team kit. He was covered in sweat and walked towards me with a smile on his face as I smiled he extended his hand and said "Welcome to camp Ryan, we're glad you made the trip. It's great to see you, enjoy the weekend." I was a tad star struck and wasn't sure what to say, that person was Team Novo Nordisk CEO Phil Southerland, like a boy meeting his idol I smiled and said "uhhh thanks"
I would run into and talk to Phil a lot as the weekend went on and what I learned was he and every member of the team is human. What sets this team apart and makes them so inspirational is the amount of work the put in to their diabetes and their job as cyclists. Sitting back and watching the team I don't know if I ever saw them not working to be better. On Friday night around 9pm I was riding high after sitting down with a very inspirational person that has changed diabetes in Macedonia, Rwanda and is working like crazy to change diabetes for everyone across the globe. I decided I should head down to the fitness center to relax and listen to some good music, the last thing I expected to see was a member of the team working his ass off in the weight room. As soon as I opened the door Quentin Valognes rushed over hugged me and said "How have you been Ryan?" I took three things away from working out with Quentin, he is an animal in the gym, caring, and fun. As we talked about his promotion to the pro team he said "That is why I'm in here. I need to be better." I sat there in amazement as he easily did situps with 30lb dumbells in each hand, this is a man that is never satisfied!! He never stops working and never stops smiling, as we met with the team on a training ride I sprinted up to Quentin and took a selfie with him. He laughed and hugged me, the entire weekend you could see how happy Quentin is to be with his brothers.
I have said it before and I will say it again this isn't a team it is a family!! Saturday afternoon the members of the media were able to sit down for a Q&A with Phil Southerland, Team CEO and cofounder, team Dr. Mark Greve, Pro team members Stephen Clancy, Fabio Calabria and Quentin Valognes and Development team member Sam Brand from the isle of man. Having this opportunity I had to ask which team members motivated them. The answer from each rider was the same but different. They all motivate each other, they all have their own story and most were told that they shouldn't or wouldn't race at the professional ranks with diabetes. It didn't stop any of these men, it didn't stop an eighteen year old that was away from home and living with the team for the year. Do members of the team get home sick? Of course but they have their second family and when any of the team members have a tough day they can turn to each other for help or if they just need someone to talk too. That was evident all weekend, from team members playing jokes on one another to just sitting out in the lobby talking about what they will do for the holidays. It even brought me to tears as team members hugged and wished each other the best as they got on the bus to head to the airport. This is a family that loves one another and would do anything to help each other.
On Saturday night the team and members of the media headed to the Worlf of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta. After a day learning about these team members as people I almost forgot that they race bikes and are prepairng for thee biggest season in Team Novo Nordisk history. Famed cycling announcer Brad Sohner was the emcee for the announcement of the 2017 Development and Pro rosters for Team Novo Nordisk. As the team members were introduced I could see the racer inside each person come out. For about twenty-four hours I was able to see these men as people. For an hour I got to see these men as pro athletes, the intensity of each rider as the walked out was intimidating. You could tell that these men are focused on the 2017 racing season, in their brand new uniforms and under the heat of the lights they listened as Phil Southerland gave one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard. I was ready to grab a bike and ride any distance that would be asked of me. The men on stage stood stone faced as they listened, but you could see that they are ready to dominate the 2017 cycling season.
I went in to this weekend expecting my life to change and to be more motivated than ever. I was not let down, my blog is dfferent than most diabetes and cycling blogs because it is just pure emotion and my true feelings. Post after post about Team Novo Nordisk on this site talks about how great each and every member of the team is as a person and as a cyclist. I got to be with these men for thirty six hours and I'm left wanting more. I can't wait for the 2017 and to see the photos of team members meeting fans because I now know that this is what makes wearing the jersey and racing all over the world so special for them. After talking to rider after rider they can't wait for a stage to end so tjat they can get back to the bus, clean up and then go talk to a child that is living with diabetes and has waited all day to meet the team. No matter the result on the bike it is the moments when they get to meet the fans that has the biggest impact on these men. Each and everyday they are changing diabetes and saving lives. I went down to Atlanta one man and came home a new man that wants words from Phil Southerlands speech tattooed on his arm so that I can see them when I'm on the bike, running or in need of a little inspiration. "DIABETES ONLY CHOOSES THE CHAMPIONS"