If actions speak louder than words, Team Novo Nordisk’s performance at the 10th Tour du Rwanda should be loud enough for the entire world to hear.
Even after a decade years since the debut of its original incarnation Team Type 1, the US-registered UCI Professional Continental programme is still shattering the stigma often associated nearly half a billion people worldwide — according to the World Health Organisation — affected by diabetes.
“We heard on sports radio in Kigali, which goes out to the entire country, that diabetics can’t compete and that we’re a joke,” team CEO and co-founder Phil Southerland told Eurosport prior to Novo Nordisk rider David Lozano’s penultimate stage win in Kigali. “That’s unfortunately the stigma surrounding the disease here in Rwanda, because for so many years here and in other developing countries diabetes is perceived as a death sentence.”
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The 29-year-old Spanish mountain biker-turned-road cyclist, who finished fifth on general classification behind overall race winner Samuel Mugisha (Rwanda) after recording three second-place finishes and a third aside from his winning Stage 7 result, said he is not in the least bit shocked by uneducated remarks made by the Rwandan radio hosts.
“I am not surprised,” admitted Lozano. “There are a lot of people affected with diabetes and you will always have a lot of opinions floating around, but for those that still like say diabetes is a handicap — it’s why we exist.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Southerland, also a diabetic who joined his team earlier in the week for what he refers to as “one of his favourite races in the world” and actually rode the 107.5-kilometre stage just prior to the finish.
“David Lozano has been so close all week long and for him to take the top step on the podium in front of a million fans in Kigali, and for all the announcers to say he is doing this with diabetes is a monumental step for Team Novo Nordisk — and more importantly for all the kids with diabetes in this country and around the world to see we are champions,” said Southerland, whose team has achieved podium results at the Amgen Tour of California, Tour de Korea and Le Tour de Filipinas since stepping up to Pro Conti in 2011.
“I’m speechless,” he continued. “I am so proud of David. He’s worked so hard for this — what can I say? But this is our chance to show Rwanda, East Africa and the entire world what is possible when you take control of diabetes.
“Diabetes is our superpower, it’s not a weakness. It’s not a death sentence.”
Kuss keeps Tour of Utah winner’s jersey in America
Young American Sepp Kuss raced to his third stage win en route to an overall race victory at the 14th edition of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (2.HC) on Sunday. The 23-year-old from LottoNL-Jumbo lifted the yellow leader’s jersey on Stage 2 from fellow American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who opened the race with prologue success, and finished with back-to-back first-place stage results.
“Coming from Durango, there’s a lot of connections to the Utah area. It’s cool to see familiar faces. I think that what makes the race special, everyone is super enthusiastic, respectful fans and it has that kind of American flair. It’s fun to be here,” said Kuss, who carved up the descent on the slopes of Empire Pass to beat stage runner-up and countryman Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) and Australian Jack Haig (Mitchelton—Scott) by eight seconds on the day.
Haig, 24, finished third on general classification behind 32-year-old Belgian Ben Hermans of Israel Cycling Academy.
Not only did Kuss claim the biggest win of his career in just his second start at the Tour of Utah, but he also takes home the mountains classification jersey as well, while compatriot Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare) wins the sprint competition after recording two stage wins during the seven-day event.
“My first time in (Utah) was 2008,” said Bookwalter, who has raced Utah 11 times now. “It intimidated me and it was so daunting to get through it. I’m probably not as intimidated by it now as I was then, but it’s still challenging.
“The heat, the altitude, (and) the competition is just getting higher and higher, and raised up every year. ‘America’s Toughest Stage Race’ is an accurate description and I’m happy it’s back in 2019.”
Italy crowns two new European road race champions
The annual post-Tour de France hangover has subsided and the second half of the 2018 UCI professional cycling season is officially underway. Four days after the 17th Tour of Qinghai Lake (2.HC) wrapped with Manzana Postobón hogging the top two spots of the final GC podium, Belgium’s Victor Campenaerts won his second consecutive men’s elite time trial title at the European Continental Championships in Glasgow.
Italian sprinter Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) followed that by delivering a European road race victory for Italy on Sunday, out-sprinting cyclo-cross specialists Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) and Wout Van Aert (Belgium) to the finish after completing 230.4km of racing.
“I was not in good shape and I still have a lot of pain from my crash at the Tour De France a few weeks ago,” said Trentin, 29, who appears to be fully recovered from a spinal fracture suffered at Paris-Roubaix in April.
“It was a very technical course and it was really hard. In the end, I still felt a lot of pain in my back and in my hip. I think I really needed more time to recover for this race.”
Trentin’s win scores Italy the double after Marta Bastianelli sprinted to a convincing victory over defending champion Marianne Vos in the women’s race. The Netherlands’ Ellen van Dijk won the women’s time trial title by two seconds over compatriot and reigning Olympic road race champion Anna van der Breggen.
One notable absentee from the men’s road race finish was reigning three-time World Champion Peter Sagan (Slovakia), who abandoned the race with around 84km to go.
The 28-year-old Bora-Hansgrohe rider tweeted the following after the race:
“I tried hard, I gave my best at the @UEC_cycling European Championship in @Glasgow2018 but I’m still feeling pain in my back and hip. I had to stop racing after 150km and I need some more time to fully recover from my @LeTour crash. Thanks, everybody!”
Former world champion wins Tour de Pologne
Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) avoided the same fate he suffered on the same finish half a dozen years ago and captured his first Tour de Pologne (2.UWT) victory.
The reigning two-time national road race champion, who is now preparing for La Vuelta a España, captured two straight stage wins en route to the overall title, making it the first stage race victory since Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
The 2014 world champion — the last before Sagan’s three-peat —beat Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) by 15 seconds despite the Brit claiming the seventh and final stage. Frenchman Thibault Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) rounded out the final GC podium 20 seconds adrift of the Pole.
“That’s the Tour of Poland, you know you are going to be fighting right up until the end of the race,” said Kwiatkowski. “We didn’t panic as a team. It’s amazing having such a strong team here in the race. Without the boys, I would not have been able to defend the jersey. Yesterday and today they rode amazing stages and I’m really thankful to all the guys.
“Considering how long this race is I was on my own for only a few kilometres at the end,” the 28-year-old continued. “It’s a difficult scenario when you don’t quite know the gap to the front, but also you don’t want to lose positions at the finish. At the end of the day everything worked out perfectly and I’m so happy.”
Photo: Nils Laengner
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