Newcastle teenager Declan Irvine will realise a dream this month when he lines up alongside some of the best road cyclists in the world after securing his first professional contract.
Irvine, 19, will compete in his maiden professional event, the UAE Tour, with US outfit Team Novo Nordisk, who gained one of two wildcards into the competition.
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome and 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali will be among his rivals, as well as Australian stars Richie Porte and Caleb Ewan.
The opportunity comes after Irvine earned a two-year contract last October with Novo Nordisk, which is the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team. All members have type 1 diabetes and the team’s mission is to inspire, educate and empower everyone affected by the disease.
“This contract means that my dreams of becoming a professional cyclist have now been realised,” Irvine said.
“I have made it to the elite end of the sport.”
At 15, Irvine applied to attend Novo Nordisk’s talent identification camp in Athens, Georgia. He then spent two years in their junior team, racing in Europe, USA and Canada.
Last year he joined their development team, where he earned the chance last August to move into their professional squad as a stagiaire, or trainee.
The professional contract that followed was an important step towards his ultimate goal of one day competing at the Tour de France.
”At the moment my race schedule will see me travelling to many different countries over the course of the year,” he said.
“I will be starting my season at the UAE Tour in Dubai and after that the team’s schedule includes races across Europe, North America and Asia later in the year.
“As a neo-pro, my role in the team will be to learn my craft at this elite level. This neo-pro period is very important for my growth as a professional cyclist so I will definitely be trying to learn as much as I can this year from my teammates and staff.
“My major goal this year is to be consistent and dependable. Whether that means running bottles for my teammates or being the last man in the lead out train coming into the final sprint. I want to do my job at 110 per cent.
“My long-term goal is to have a long career as a professional cyclist.
“TNN is working towards one day competing at the Tour de France and I’m excited to give my best to help the team achieve this goal.”
The journey so far has already been memorable for Irvine. He won kermesses – a Dutch style of road racing – in Belgium, finished top 10 in one of the biggest criteriums on the US pro road tour and wore the under-23 leader’s jersey for stages of the Tour of the Dominican Republic.
Irvine, a former triathlete, said “the impact our team has on the community” was also a highlight.
“We would turn up to races and have people approach us and want to talk about racing with diabetes,” he said.
“I am often contacted by people explaining how inspirational our team is to their family members or friends who are living with diabetes.”