Cycling in the UK is going through a boom. The Tour de France started this year in Yorkshire, seeing millions line the roads to cheer on the riders. This past week the Tour of Britain has also seen large crowds who, as part of the spectacle, may have been surprised to see some cyclists injecting themselves during the race. Happily this isn’t a return to cycling’s dark days of doping but instead the diabetic riders of Team Novo Nordisk.
Novo Nordisk, global healthcare company, and a world leader in diabetes care, sponsor the only professional cycling team made up entirely of diabetic riders. The team has been racing since 2005 but last year Novo Nordisk agreed to become the headline sponsor as long as every rider was a Type 1 diabetic.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition which means little or no insulin is produced in the body. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life, let alone professional bike racing.
Phil Southerland, the team’s founder and CEO, is an evangelical speaker about life as a diabetic. Southerland and his team don’t just speak inspirationally though – they show the world by racing against the best, giving real credibility to their message.
A further string to Team Novo Nordisk’s communication bow is that they offer something new. Happily there have been some truly inspirational athletes who have coped with diabetes and won, but there has never been a team of endurance athletes made up of entirely diabetics.
The team have the ambition of celebrating the 100th anniversary of insulin being invented, in 2021, with a diabetic winning the Tour de France. It is a laudable aim and clearly some way off as the team’s highest placed rider in the Tour of Britain was only 58th. This shouldn’t detract from all they do to communicate a positive message to the world about what can be achieved with diabetes, which is why Team Novo Nordisk are my Communicators of the Week.