Via social media I felt like I was in the Dominican Republic with the team, each and every member of Team Novo Nordisk was posting photos of the work they were doing and photos with the families that the houses were being built for. Team members were drenched in sweat from working in very hot and humid conditions, but each and every photo that I came across had members of the team smiling. What was better to see was the smiles and put joy on the faces of the families affected by poverty and diabetes. Post after post from the riders talked about how much this experience helped them as people and the team as a whole.
This experience will be with the members of Team Novo Nordisk for years to come. It will be with the riders when they are extremely dehydrated and climbing a category one mountain in the rain. They will be breaking down mentally and thinking to themselves "why am I doing this?" That is when their time in the Dominican Republic giving a family a new outlook on life will be in their mind. It will be the smiles on the faces of the children as they got to see their bedroom for the first time or when they were grocery shopping with the team. It will be the tears that they cried with the family as they gave them the keys to the house. All of that will be with the team each and everyday that they are on the bike.
It will also be with the riders when they head home to see their families. It will be seeing their girlfriends, wives, children or parents and crying because of what they learned about life while in the Dominican Republic. It will be tears of joy as a rider hugs his mother or father and realizes just how special life can be. Realizing how hard it is to provide successfully for a family and to give their children the opportunity to be professional cyclists. These hugs will be done with team members wearing their Team Novo Nordisk apparel. It will be at the end of the day when they will look at the Team Novo Nordisk logo on their clothing that they will smile and realize that with each pedal stroke and each speech they give that they have and will continue to change the diabetes world. That is what makes Team Novo Nordisk so special and the best and most inspirational cycling team in the world!!
I had the honor of interviewing Javier Megias and first year Team Novo Nordisk member Romain Gioux about their experience in the Dominican Republic. These interviews were conducted via email but as I read their responses I could feel how much this experience had changed these two men.
1. Building a house for a family impacted by diabetes and poverty is amazing, what emotions were you feeling as you met the families?
The first thing I noticed was just how poor and in need these people were. Compared to the place we went to in Mexico, this was a whole different level of poverty. Rwanda is the only other place I’ve seen poverty even remotely close to this. Sometimes we don’t realize the bounty we have, while another thing I noticed was how happy these families were despite having so little
2. Emotionally something like this stays with you, when you're on the bike be it training or racing how does this experience help you?
I appreciate everything more. I appreciate what I have at home, especially my kids. Now, I want to teach them to be aware of issues like this and know that there are ways they can help. I’m in a unique position where I’m the only rider with kids on this team, and I want to teach my kids to give, give, give.
3. What was your favorite memory from last years project as well as this years project?
Mexico: My biggest memory was when we gave the keys to the family. It was really emotional for all of us; we were all crying. That moment will always stay with me.
Dominican Republic: The son will remain in my memory. He was really shy. When we were at the grocery store buying them food and other things, he was still so shy. When we went back and he was able to go into his house for the first time, he was so happy, so very, very happy. It was super emotional.
4. What has this experience meant for you personally?
Like I said, it makes me appreciate everything I have more and motivates me to teach my kids that they need to help others in need.
1. This is your first winter training camp with the team, what have you learned about the team and your teammates over the past week?
First, it left a real impression on how big this project is. I may already be 30-years-old and raced for different French amateur teams, but I’ve never seen a training camp like this, both when it comes to the focus and the size.
2. Building a house for a family impacted by diabetes and poverty is amazing, what emotions were you feeling as you met the families?
I had never done anything like this before. I had seen things on TV, but I had never experienced something like this, and it left a mark. Similar to my teammates, we first noticed how poor they were, but then we quickly noticed how happy they were. I think this community’s ability to be happy while having so little is something we all need to remember and take forward into our lives.
3. Emotionally something like this stays with you, when you're on the bike be it training or racing how does this experience help you?
It made me realize how fortunate I am to get to race my bike for a job.
I hope that during the season, when it is cold and raining, that I will still realize those aren’t reasons to complain and that I will appreciate everything that I have. I also think this helped bring us all together as a team even before we race our first race.
4. This has to be an amazing way to start your career with Team Novo Nordisk, in your short time with the team what makes this team different from any other team that you have been a part of?
It was a powerful way to start my time with Team Novo Nordisk. Before this, I had only raced one race with the development team, so I didn’t know many of my teammates or the staff. It was a unique way to learn what good people my teammates are.