Team Novo Nordisk are set for a swift return to stage racing action this week at the five-day Okolo Slovenska/Tour de Slovaquie as the world’s first all diabetes professional cycling team looks to repeat some of their positive performances on Slovakian roads from previous years.
Last year’s edition saw Italian sprinter Andrea Peron consistently around the top ten and the versatile Paduan will line up again this time alongside in form Spanish climber David Lozano and fellow Italian Umberto Poli after a solid top 20 result at Sunday’s GP de Fourmies.
“Okolo Slovenska is a race that has been good to us and not in terms of results,” said General Manager Vassili Davidekno. “We have always received great support from the Slovakian affiliates of our sponsors Novo Nordisk and that has allowed us to spread our message of inspiration to the Diabetes community in Slovakia. And we are very thankful for that.”
Irishman Stephen Clancy returns with Brit Sam Brand travelling straight from GP de Fourmies and Finnish champion Joonas Henttala and French sprinter Mehdi Benhamouda rounding out the squad.
“I like this race a lot,” said Peron. “There’s a good amount of diversity across the five stages and historically we have performed well in Slovakia, so we will definitely be aiming for more of the same.”
Totalling close to 700km of cross nation racing over all terrain, the 2021 edition mirrors previous years by starting with a short, fast prologue before getting down to business with four punchy road stages. The hardest of which comes on Saturday with 193.2km and four second category climbs to contend with.
“We know how challenging this race is,” continued Davidenko. “It’s not our first time, but every year can be different, and we need to be prepared for every outcome. 2021 continues to be a special year for us with the 100th anniversary of insulin and we return to this year’s race with our Finnish national road champion Joonas Henttala and a strong team ready to race. Stages like these can be great opportunities to get up the road in the breakaway and we have options for the climbs also the finals.”
Certainly, the two riders showing late season form are Lozano and Peron with each finishing at the front of reduced groups in recent races and the aim being to carry the form and confidence into these last objectives.
“Considering the crash, I was involved in at Besançon and how hard I went down,” explained Peron. “I am really happy with how it went at GP de Fourmies yesterday. I had a bit of a hard time training during the week and had some muscle pain in my inner thigh, but I felt really good in Fourmies and that’s the sensation that I’ll be looking to take with us to Slovakia.”
Team Novo Nordisk at Okolo Slovenska, 15th – 19th September:
Sam Brand (GBR, 30)
Mehdi Benhamouda (FR, 26)
Stephen Clancy (IRL, 29)
Joonas Henttala (FIN, 30)
David Lozano (ESP, 32)
Andrea Peron (IT, 32)
Umberto Poli (IT, 25)
Wednesday 15th September, Prologue: Kosice – Kosice, 1.6km
Thursday 16th September, Stage 1: Kosice – Kosice, 158.4km
Friday 17th September, Stage 2: Spisske Podhradie – Dolny Kubin, 179.7km
Saturday 18th September, Stage 3: Dolny Kubin – Povazska Bystrica, 193.2km
Sunday 19th September, Stage 4: Trencianske Teplice – Trnava, 159.2km
— Tim Lindley to www.teamnovonordisk.com