Ed Beamon is a familiar sight in the North American racing scene, and indeed in the global racing scene. For 14 years, he managed the Navigators Insurance squad that scored victories on six continents and included athletes from 15 nations, including National Champions of Canada, Russia, Ireland, Australia, Uzbekistan and New Zealand. The longest running professional team sponsorship in American cycling came to an an end in 2007 as Navigators Insurance decided not to renew their sponsorship.
In 2008, he joined General Manager Tom Schuler, another familiar name in the North American racing scene, and became the Directeur Sportif for Team Type 1, a new UCI Professional Continental team. 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. (Read more on the team).
Earlier this year, I had a chance to get the background info on how this relationship came about. After the (always entertaining) exchange of smart ass comments, we got down to brass tacks.
How did you get connected with this team?
Ed: Joe and Phil put together the team a couple of years ago as a club team and then eventually a RAAM [Race Across America] team and I happened to meet Joe and Phil at Interbike at the end of the year. Just coincidently, got into a conversation and actually spent quite a bit of time talking to Joe about their whole RAAM experience which I thought just the competitive side of that, forgetting the diabetes side of it, was pretty interesting. Anyway we chatted for quite a bit and at the end of the conversation, I asked them what their plans were for the following year, so blah, blah. A couple of weeks later, Tom called me to talk about riders and he mentioned that he was going to… he had managed the RAAM team in the previous year and that they were going to be doing this. I think because I had a little bit of background about those guys – if I had not I probably wouldn’t have been as interested – I thought the whole message behind the team and the approach was pretty appealing so we talked a little bit about riders that would be good for the team and then we took the conversation a little bit further and started to talk about myself and Vassili [Davidenko, assistant DS] coming on board and bringing a little bit of the old Navigators infrastructure across. And then for me it took weeks and weeks to kind of put it all together, and I think it’s been a pretty good fit. Tom and I have kind of been battling each other many many years, but socially we’ve been around many many years, it’s kind of fun working with him.
Were you looking for a team for 2009 again?
Ed: Honestly, I went to Interbike mainly because I just wanted to make sure I kept some relationships alive and also do the obligatory thank yous and that type of thing. Really I went to Interbike with no expectations for doing a team in 2008 and I really kind of resigned myself to not doing a team in 2008, maybe doing some work with some of the promoters, really using the year to kind of focus on building something for 2009. And that was actually a bit of a crossroads for me too when we started thinking about Team Type 1, was this a program that was worth getting involved with and potentially sacrificing my ability to work for something in the future and I think there’s tremendous potential for this team both long term competitively and also for the value of the message, and if it were just another continental team I don’t think I would have had that much interest in it. I think the message behind the team is something that’s worth getting behind, it gives a little bit more guts to the competitive side of it. You know, cycling can be pretty self centered, egotistical, well sport in general can be pretty self-centered and egotistical, it’s kind of cool to have a little bit of a social messaging behind the team. Now for us, it’s full gas for this team and see if we can make it.
How did you pick the riders?
Ed: Tom had already started the process, he had a couple of guys on board, Shawn Milne and Chris Jones, two guys, Shawn originally came out of the Navigators program and obviously I was really happy with that decision. Chris was a guy that we had been hoping to put on the Navigators program anyway had it gone forwards. So there were two guys there that I was really happy and excited to be working with. 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 that 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. And when we first started talking, I asked all those guys to sort of put off some other offers and reach out with a little bit of faith that we’d be able to put something together, it worked out well as far as those guys. Tom had starting talking to a few guys, really we were putting together this team in November which left us… we started the talks in October, but it was really in November when we set the second half of the roster. It didn’t leave us a lot of opportunities to get the riders we wanted. It was an incentive from all of us to have riders, staff coming across from the old team to bring a little bit of continuity to it, I think if any one of us had been completely on our own with this we’d have been a little bit more hesitant but we knew we had a measure of stability rolling into the program.
During the race itself, do you pay any special attention to the Type 1 guys?
Ed: 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. Even in the first couple of races we did, we found that a couple of the guys misjudged a little bit and they would have a rough day because of that. But they know how to take care of themselves and as long as there is nothing out of the ordinary, I think there’s not a lot of special attention necessarily.
That being said, it’s extremely important that we have gels, and shot cubes and plenty of food in the car all the time and that those guys load up before the start of the race. We also carry our hypoglycemic kit which includes glucose gun injection and glucose tablets, just always have a glucose monitor with us, so in case there are any complications or something out of the ordinary happen, we’ re prepared to deal with is at some level. We like to have two guys at an event as much as possible, just so they can help each other out but it’s not always possible. All the guys on the team have gotten somewhat of an education on what their general lifestyle patterns are and what to expect, what to look out for in case one of them, their sugar is dropping too low, I think it’s much rarer cases of it going too high. And we did spend a fair amount of time at training camp kind of orientating everybody to those possibilities. I think for the most part, the guys that have Type 1 diabetes don’t want to be treated or considered different than anybody else on the team, they feel they’ve learned how to manage the diabetes and that’s the message that they want to send to the diabetic community is that we’ve learned to manage it, you can learn to manage it and when you do manage it, you’ll be able to do the things that you want to do without fear of complications. They key is taking control.
What are your goals for 2008?
Ed: We want to win some races. I think there are probably three prongs to our objectives for the first year. The first is to have a successful competitive unit, contribute to every event that we’re in and hopefully win some races. We’re pretty happy with the way Langkawi went, with Taiwan, reasonably happy with what I saw in San Dimas. With a few injuries early on and what not, it’s going to take a little bit of time for this team to find its stride, we don’t have the horsepower that Toyota has, or Health Net-Maxxis or BMC, but I think we have a competent team. Beyond that, we really want to see this team reach out and touch the diabetic community and become a source of inspiration and communication for people with diabetes. I think that obviously is the most important goal in year one, regardless of how the team does competitively, 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, and hopefully next year, we’ll be putting together a roster in July and August, not October, November and it will give us that much more opportunity to be that much stronger competitive organization in the future.
So you’re in it for a few years?
Ed: I think so.