Swiss Rubens Bertogliati will be the centre of attention when the Team Type 1 Sanofi road team arrives in Auckland on January 21 for the New Zealand Cycle Classic in the Manawatu.
Race director Jorge Sandoval has long wanted to have a rider in the classic with a strong connection to the sport’s biggest race, the Tour de France, and approaching 25 years of running the event he now has that in Bertogliati. His big moment in an outstanding career came in the 2002 Tour when Bertogliati won the opening stage, and he wore the tour leader’s yellow jersey for the following three stages.
“Thanks to Sanofi NZ it will finally happen. I’m going to have a rider in the classic who has shine in the Tour de France,” Sandoval said. “Cycling fans in New Zealand will be very excited by that.”
For Sandoval there was more than a trace of irony that it should be an overseas rider rather than a New Zealander.
“For years I’ve been trying without success to get Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston, New Zealanders who have been chosen to ride in the famous Tour,” Sandoval said. “But having achieved that I’ve been hampered by international rules. I’ve not be able to get them here for the classic. I’ve been forced to chase riders from other countries.”
Bertogliati, 32, was the backbone of Team Type 1 Sanofi in Europe this year according to its general manager Vassili Davidenko, Bertogliati’s first in the squad in its initial full season in the Professional Continental division. He shapes as an early standout to win the 25th edition of the classic over five days through the Manawatu, from January 25 to 29, and is very much the leader of Team Type 1 Sanofi, the first Pro Continental team to appear in New Zealand.
The two-times Swiss national time trial champion said the classic’s hilly but generally shorter stages by top international standards with a time trial to start with at Massey University should suit him, and he rated his changes of finishing well up on general classification.
The team might well be unique in professional sport with six of its squad of 21 having Type 1 diabetes, including another of the five riders chosen for the classic, Australian Fabio Calabria, who was first home in the under-19 race at the New Zealand championships in 2005. He has competed in and finished more races than any of the other diabetic cyclists in the team.
With Type 1 diabetes he must continually monitor his blood glucose, and periodically take insulin to manage his condition. “As long as I stay hydrated and manage my sugars my diabetes is no problem,” Calabria said. “With the proper technology, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and good control, diabetes can be managed and those affected can lead normal, even extraordinary lives.”
The Atlanta-based team was established in 2005 by two American cyclists with diabetes, Phil Sutherland and Joe Eldridge. It started as a grassroots initiative to motivate people to take control of their diabetes using cycling as a platform, and has swiftly grown into a global sports organisation. The team’s participation in the classic is being sponsored by Sanofi Diabetes, and it will be appearing at several diabetes events while in New Zealand.
“Team Type 1-SANOFI is honoured to kick off our 2012 campaign in New Zealand, and to work with the great promoters of the race, and our partner SANOFI to bring our message of hope and inspiration to New Zealand. We are excited to work with the diabetes community there, and help all to realize the great power of the bike." founder Phil Sutherland said.
The three other Team Type 1 Sanofi cyclists coming to New Zealand are Americans Kiel Reijnen and Joey Rosskopf, and Slovenian Aldo Ino Ilesic. The latter is the most experienced of the trio, racing with distinction as a professional since 2003, including at the recent world road championships in Melbourne and in North and South America. Reijnen has excelled in several of the bigger Asian tours, and after a 2011 largely ruined by injury and illness he won last month’s mountainous Tour of Rwanda, and Rosskopf has made good progress this year after graduating from the team’s development squad.
Besides the Team Type 1 Sanofi and five Australian professional teams, there are another 10 overseas riders travelling to New Zealand as individuals who will be placed in composite teams, and the New Zealand national team has yet to be announced.
Sandoval has brought the classic to the Manawatu for the first time thanks to the support of the Palmerston North City Council, and Sport Manawatu.