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“My first reaction was, “Wait, I want to be on holiday,” but then I realized how good this would be for team building. When I wanted to quit, I was motivated to continue because I didn’t want to let my team down."

Team Novo Nordisk (Photo by Lars Ronbog / FrontZoneSport via Getty Images)

TEAM NOVO NORDISK

TEAM PROFILE
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NEWS
23.11.2015 @ 18:55 Posted by Joseph Doherty

In the past few offseasons, we have seen some teams take on some strange activities to bond together and try and get the best results out of their riders. Jonathan Vaughters’ Cannondale-Garmin team are famous for their enjoyable camps and last season Oleg Tinkov took his Tinkoff-Saxo team on a trip up Kilimanjaro. But this season, Team Novo Nordisk have undertaken a tough camp to build morale within the group of riders, as well as a second phase of camps that benefit others. Below is a detailed story of how this unique camp unfolded and CyclingQuotes has exclusive interviews with two of the riders who speak on what the camp has done for them and how it has changed their lives.

 

Last week, Team Novo Nordisk’s men’s professional cycling team headed to San Diego, California for what they thought was a regular early training camp for 2016. Instead, the athletes from nearly a dozen countries were woken up at 4AM West Coast US time on Monday to take part in a series of rigorous team-building exercises led by former US Navy Seals and special operators.  This came as quite a shock to the team’s system but the camp was tough and would serve to build morale which may prove vital as the team endures some tough times in the coming season.

 

“We came up with the idea to do the Navy Seal-style camp because we wanted the riders to work together more effectively as a team. We wanted to show them that when they work well together as a team, they can be better,” Team Novo Nordisk CEO and co-founder Phil Southerland said. “We believe that what was holding them back was truly mental, so we wanted to break them down and build them back up as one solid unit.”

 

APG (Acumen Performance Group) led the Team Novo Nordisk athletes through a 36-hour intensive development program designed to promote leadership and team building. Founded by former US Navy Seals and special operators, the program specializes in enhancing performance in a dynamic, high-stress environment.

 

“We were very involved throughout the planning process for the 36-hour course. We knew we wanted to create a stage race style format,” Southerland said. “We broke it down into eight stages, including eight different types of exercises. We worked together with APG to formulate a really intense, stressful and unique experience designed to make the riders stronger.”

 

The two-day course began near Mission Bay in San Diego before heading east into the desert, where temperatures dropped near freezing overnight. The athletes were divided into teams of five and led through a series of physically and mentally demanding exercises, relying heavily upon teamwork in order to finish tasks.

 

While this arduous course was tough enough, Team Novo Nordisk’s ordeal was not over. After the former Navy Seal’s tested their mental and physical resolves, the team was about to have their emotional resolve tested to the limit. Team Novo Nordisk staff and riders were about to become one of the first teams ever to use their winter training camp as a tool to give back, especially to the diabetic community, with all of the team’s riders living with diabetes.

 

Following the APG program, pre-season training camp continued for the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team in Rosarito, Mexico, where they were joined by the entire Team Novo Nordisk staff to build houses for two families tragically impacted by diabetes and poverty. 

 

Team Novo Nordisk partnered with Hope Sports, a non-profit organization that promotes personal growth and community among athletes through short-term service trips, for the two-day build. Riders and staff worked tirelessly to create the homes from the ground up and both families received keys to their finished homes on Friday.  

 

“Building a house together has been an amazing team-building experience that will be invaluable to these athletes in their personal lives and on the bike. This has been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience,” added Southerland. 

 

The combined experience of intense endurance training followed by home building has resulted in a stronger group of athletes, united and ready to take on the 2016 season together.

 

“We have young riders, but we also have some experienced riders. At this camp, the playing field was leveled and everyone was equal. They all had to work together to achieve the shared goal. There were no superstars and no riders were left behind,” Team Novo Nordisk Vice President of Athletics Vassili Davidenko said. “I really believe we are going to see the results of this camp over next season. This type of camp serves as a great method for a young team like ours. We have a limited pool of riders and want to develop them to the next level, therefore we needed to look at alternate strategies to help push them, and that’s what this camp did.”

 

CyclingQuotes spoke exclusively to two riders who completed the camp, 23-year-old Irishman Stephen Clancy and 30 year old Martijn Verschoor, one of the team’s star riders. They have us their reactions from what happened when they found out what their camp would be and how they felt at the end of the week after camp was completed.

 

Clancy spoke on just how tough the first part of the week was, but also pointed out that in each bike race, a rider endures a moment of not feeling food and may even want to quit. Clancy knows now that he has more mental reswrve from this camp, he will be even stronger and less vulnerable to the little voice in his head telling him to quit. 

 

“All the tasks, while they were physically and mentally challenging, also had the purpose of team building, improving communication and developing mental strength,” Stephen Clancy said to CyclingQuotes. "When we were all submerged in freezing cold water, I wanted to call it quits. I’ve never been so cold in my life. But I looked around at my teammates’ faces and seeing they weren’t going to quit, enabled me to push on. Afterward, when talking to my teammates, we all agreed that we each wanted to quit at some point, but no one wanted to be the first.”

 

He also pointed out the team benefits the house building experience in Mexico the team had on all of the riders and staff. He hopes this camp will have lasting effects on all who took part and can guide them to more success in 2016 and beyond.

 

"Teamwork has been an integral part of the home build in Mexico. If one guy isn’t holding the ladder, the other guy is going to fall down," said Clancy. "We need each other to get the job done and the same will apply for the team in races."

 

"I think the biggest benefits coming out of this week are better communication and teamwork. We know each other so much better now and that’s all going to benefit us. We’re going to work harder for each other, which hopefully will result in more success."

 

Verschoor was frankly honest, admitting that at first, he wasn’t keen on the camp and wished he was still relaxing and enjoying his offseason.  However, he too was desperate not to quit and let his teammates and friends down.

 

“My first reaction was, “Wait, I want to be on holiday,” but then I realized how good this would be for team building,” Verschoor told CyclingQuotes. “Even when I wanted to quit, I was motivated to continue because I didn’t want to let my team down. I never wanted to stop or quit because of them. After this week, I think we all left feeling this way about each other.”

 

After being put into freezing cold water, Verschoor took something that may have an individual effect rather than a team effect: he will no longer feel so bad about racing in the rain after feeling just how cold the water was on this camp.

 

“We did a lot of team exercises and dug really deep physically. The last day left us all exhausted,” Verschoor said. “We were running on very little sleep and were so sore, and it was at that point they made us get into the freezing cold water. After that experience, I think racing in the rain will feel easier. We will remember the cold water and strong winds and know we are strong enough to make it through.”

 

It is refreshing to see a team give back and do something different on a camp. The camp has made a lasting impact on all staff and riders who took part, as well as on the families who suffered from diabetes and poverty. All involved are better off as a result of the camp. However, it is safe to say that when the team meets in Spain in January, the riders will be hoping to spend more time riding, sleeping and staying warm than they did this week…

 

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