There's a new professional continental team in the pro cycling peloton this year. But this team is different, it has a message. Team Type 1 was created by Type 1 diabetes racers Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge to inspire people living with diabetes to take a proactive approach to managing their health and overcoming the obstacles often associated with the condition. The 15-rider professional roster includes four riders with Type 1 diabetes.

Phil Southerland starts the Redlands TT; photo c. Lyne Lamoureux

The team is serious about the racing, and big guns were recruited, General Manager Tom Schuler and Directeur Sportif Ed Beamon, two of the most established names in domestic cycling, having previously directed the longtime Saturn and Navigators Insurance teams, respectively.

Team Type 1 finished third in the team classification at the Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T, second on team classification at the Tour of Langkawi in February and in March, Shawn Milne finished second overall at the Tour de Taiwan.

It all started with a bet. During the college days, Southerland noticed that his friend Eldridge was not taking care of his diabetes and started placing bets on whomever had higher blood sugar paid for dinner.

"He [Eldridge] was a beginning bike racer, like a cat 5, but he was pretty competitive so he started doing things better, we call it the A1C challenge now, so in three weeks he made some drastic changes and all of a sudden he started beating me." said Southerland looking back.

In 2004, the duo put a team together and in 2006 and 2007, the team won the eight-rider corporate team division of the Race Across America. After being able to use the best technology in the diabetes world, Southerland had an idea.

"That we could put a diabetic in the Tour de France for the first time, that's the goal of the team so we can get that, try to have a worldwide, global impact on people with diabetes, similar to what Lance did for people with cancer." said Southerland.

And a professional continental team was formed in 2008. The pro team is led by 31-year old Matt Wilson, a Tour de France veteran, former Australian national road champion and 2007 Sun Tour winner. "He brings his experience but he's also got a really great personality, a big openness to share his experiences and take guys under his wings. Matt is clearly the leader on this team." said Beamon about Wilson.

The four riders with diabetes are Eldridge, Southerland, New Zealand's Tim Hargrave and Australian Fabio Calabria. Co-founder Eldridge was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age 10, is looking forwards to achieving success in professional cycling.

The 26-year old Southerland , diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at seven months old, has been racing off and on for the past 10 years, and after a 2 year hiatus to put the team together is getting back into racing. "I feel honored to be on the team with the roster that we have and just excited to get to learn from these guys and hopefully take my level up a notch."

Diagnosed when he was six years old, 23-year old Hargrave began competing in triathlons at the age of 12. "Hargrave, fairly inexperienced but very strong, a lot of raw material there, and hopefully we'll be able to help him develop without putting him at too much risk or too far over his head." said Beamon about Hargrave.

The youngest of the roster, at just 21 years old, Calabria was diagnosed with Type 1 at age of 13. With the 2005 New Zealand Under 19 national road race championship under his belt, he wants to use 2008 "to try and learn to from all the riders, try and develop and get stronger as a bike rider."

"The experience that they've gathered doing big races, how races might unfold and training and preparation for races and things like that, it's all stuff that you can't really get unless you've done it. So having the riders on the team that have done it in the bigger races and have been pros for a few of years now, its really useful to be able to use their experience." said Calabria about learning from his more experienced teammates.

Valeriy Kobzarenko attacks at Redlands Classic; photo c Lyne Lamoureux

Beamon brought a few riders from the Navigators team. "We made a big effort to make sure that we brought some of the Navigators guys back, Chaddy [Glen Chadwick], Kobza [Valeriy Kobzarenko] and [Ben] Brooks were three guys that have traditionally been, for the last 3 years, kind of the backbone guys for the Navigators program, it was good to be able to bring those guys across."

Shawn Milne is coming off a strong 2007 season with an overall victory at the Tour of Taiwan, a third-place finish at the USPRO Criterium Championships and a sixth place at the U.S. National Road Race Championships.

"For the team, it's to make it grown, make it solidified in the peloton, respected by the top teams and personally to step into a little bit of a leadership role, for the past couple of years I've been growing and learning." said Milne on his goals for the season.

Ian MacGregor soloed to victory in two consecutive Under 23 U.S. National Road Race titles, and won the fifth stage in the 2007 Tour de Beauce, a very difficult stage race in Canada.

"I think the most important for team goal is to establish the team as individually one of the better, one of the go to team in the domestic peloton. And I think as far as, the biggest goal needs to be delivering the message that the team has which I think is so much more special than what any other team has going in the peloton, we're not just selling a product, selling a bike thing, this or that, we're trying to help people, be inspirational." said MacGregor.

Spinter Emile Abraham is a nine-time national road race champion for Trinidad and Tobago and the 2003 bronze medalist at the "B" World Championships.

"Emile Abraham is probably the fastest guy on the team, it will be a new experience for him having guys around him that can set him up and help lead him out." said Beamon about Abraham.

Fewer than three years ago, Christopher Jones was racing on his own, traveling around the country by car and racing as often as possible. His 2007 breakout season as a rookie included four victories, 14 podium finishes and ninth place at the U.S. national road race championships. His goal for 2008 are quite simple, "help the team win as many races as possible."

Climber Moises Aldape Chavez, Jesse Anthony and all-arounder Dan Holt round out the squad, which includes riders from six nations. Team Type 1's pro roster is a balanced group ranging from veterans to young talents.

No one can afford to bonk. A bonk is never welcomed for any professional cyclist, and the Type 1 riders are always conscious about the blood sugar levels. The team is using FreeStyle Navigators which is a device that helps to constantly monitor blood glucose levels and trends.

"Everyone has to worry about bonking, we worry about it all the time, thinking about it all the time, so that's kind of a little advantage that we don't let it slip in our minds." said Southerland who typically checks his glucose levels 5 times an hour before and after the race, compared to an average person with diabetes who checks 4 times in a day.

"At the end of the day, any athlete has got to be careful about they put into their body and how they maintain their body. The big difference for me I think is that other riders on the team do the same thing I do, eating wise, preparation for a race, it's just that I have numbers in my blood glucose level but ultimately I think the preparation is very similar. " Calabria agreed.

"All of these guys are really astute about their bodies and what they need to do, and they've all been involved in athletics and so they've all been doing this long enough that they've kind of got for the most part the mechanics down of how to monitor their sugar and how to watch the trends going into an event. With that said, multiple day events, some of the pressure and even the distances are a new elements to some of the guys, so there is still some fine tuning and some tweaking." said Beamon about managing Type 1 riders.

The goal for 2008 is to spread the powerful message, to reach out and touch the diabetic community and become a source of inspiration and communication for people with diabetes.

"We want the team to be competitive so that we can help drive interest in the team and create awareness for the team so that we will be able to create that message. If we can be successful as delivering that message, the future of the team is going to be upwards and onwards." said Beamon.

Next on the schedule. Team Type 1 is splitting its professional squad this weekend to compete in the U.S. Air Force Cycling Classic, as well as the fourth and fifth men's events on the National Race Calendar: the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, Ala., and the Nalley Historic Roswell Criterium in Roswell, Ga. The team will then line up for the sixth event on the NRC, the Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas.

2008 Team Type 1 Professional Team (* indicates riders with Type 1 diabetes):

Emile Abraham (Trinidad & Tobago) 34
Moises Aldape Chavez (Mexico) 27
Jesse Anthony (USA) 23
Ben Brooks (Australia) 29
*Fabio Calabria (Australia) 21
Glen Chadwick (New Zealand) 32
*Joe Eldridge (USA) 26
*Tim Hargrave (New Zealand) 23
Dan Holt (USA) 27
Chris Jones (USA) 29
Valeriy Kobzarenko (Ukraine) 31
Ian MacGregor (USA) 25
Shawn Milne (USA) 27
*Phil Southerland (USA) 26
Matt Wilson (Australia) 31